The United Nations has passed a non-binding resolution condemning the disruption of Internet access as a human rights violation.
Russia and China were among countries opposing the resolution, which reaffirms the stance of the UN Human Rights Council that “the same rights people have offline must also be protected online.”
Saudi Arabia joined the two nations in their objections. But in addition to authoritarian regimes, democracies such as India and South Africa also disagreed and called for the deletion of the following passage:
“Condemns unequivocally measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online in violation of international human rights law and calls on all States to refrain from and cease such measures.”
While not legally enforceable, a resolution such as this can help put pressure on governments and add weight to the arguments of digital rights groups.
Digital rights site Access Now’s Global Policy and Legal Counsel representative, Peter Micek, enlarged on this.
“This unanimous statement by the world’s highest human rights body should give governments pause before they order blocking, throttling, and other barriers to information.”
Such throttling was witnessed in Turkey following the June 2016 attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, when social media sites were suppressed. Access Now says at least 15 Internet shutdowns took place worldwide in 2015. So far in 2016, at least 20 shutdowns are known to have been put into place.
Freedom house internet censorship rankings (higher numbers = more censorship)