Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Inhuman Rights

Dr. Mark Mitchell gives a good analysis of the recent UN discussions regarding making internet access a human right. There’s just one more fundamental point that, I think, needs to be made in this discussion.

Declaring internet access a human right takes away from the universality of human rights. Not only are those in areas or countries deprived of this right, but those who have never heard of internet are unable to identify the meaning of this right. Life, liberty, and property are foundational – necessarily dealt with in some way by every society across every era. The same with food, education, support for the elderly, religion, speech, and the list goes on. Internet access? Not so much. It is not rooted in humanity's nature.

It also makes human rights developmental. No longer are human rights something that is connected to being human, it is connected to a particular technological era. Rights theory, at least in its original form, dealt with those things that are inherent in humanity, that every person has a right to by virtue of being human. To deprive them of such is to detract from their humanity. With the advancement of internet access, we can now say that we are more human than any previous generation.

Notice that the actor here is technological advancement, the new grantor of human rights. Declaring internet access, thus, not only waters down the “rights” part, but also gets the “human” part wrong as well.
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