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UN resoultion on online human rights

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Last week the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) announced it was expanding its stance on online human rights through a non-binding resolution, condemning countries who intentionally disrupt the internet access of its citizens.

 

The resolution reaffirms that those same rights people have offline must also be protected online. And although passed by consensus, there was opposition from a number of countries including Russia and China, who noted several amendments which were later rejected. One being opposition to the UNHRC’s position of condemning countries which disrupt access to online information.

 

This is not the first resolution implemented by the UNHRC on online human rights but it does go further than the two previous, with a greater focus on internet censorship and internet shutdowns particularly. Whilst not legally enforceable the move does add to the mounting pressure particular governments face who have increasingly manipulated access to the internet in order to control its citizens.

 

In 2015 their were reported to be 15 internet shutdowns in Iraq, Turkey and India to name just a few and since the beginning of 2016 there have been at least 20 internet shutdowns globally. Last month alone, mobile internet was shut down in India following local protests, social media sites were blocked by the Turkish government after a series of terrorist attacks and in Algeria social media was blocked in an attempt to prevent cheating in school exams.

 

The announcement of an an extended resolution is welcome and although perhaps naive, there is hope that the UN’s stance of online freedom being a human right will result in there being fewer internet shutdowns. For the fear is they will become a modern day norm used to control populations and deny citizens their rights.

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