Internet Is a Tool, Not a Right

Access enables rights, but is not a right itself: Vinton G. Cerf
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2012 1:42 PM CST
Internet Is a Tool, Not a Right
A picture taken on December 15, 2011 in Paris shows computer screens featuring pages of the Huffington Post and Le Monde newspaper websites.   (Getty Images)

With Facebook and Twitter fueling protests across the Arab world, many wonder: Is the Internet a human or civil right? No, declares Google VP Vinton G. Cerf firmly. Courts in various countries have declared it so, but the UN stopped short, calling the Internet "an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights." That's exactly what it is, Cerf writes in the New York Times: "Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself," "a means to an end, not … an end in itself."

A human right is something we need "in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives." If you place technology in this category, you'll end up with some strange priorities as time passes and technologies change. (Consider what would have happened had horses been declared a human right decades ago.) Critical freedoms "are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time," Cerf writes. The more fundamental issue is that technology creators have a responsibility "to support human and civil rights." Click to see how many people might disagree with Cerf. (More human rights stories.)

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