Blog PostsMedia ScienceMedia Issues & PoliticsHuman rights, free internet access, and net neutrality

Human rights, free internet access, and net neutrality

Digital is the path to a better tomorrow — if we allow it.

Growing up, I dreamt of a world where no injustice could go unnoticed.

It’s a kid’s dream, for sure, but with the advent of the internet, it doesn’t have to remain a dream.

Already at a young age, I loved computers. I was fascinated by them; they intrigued me. They were these remarkable machines running on electric impulses going on and off in intricate circuits. And since electricity could travel the world, the interconnecting of computational systems was nothing less than a scientific triumph. As I learned to publish online, I felt empowered.

As I learned to publish online, I felt empowered. I felt that as long as I had a keyboard, a screen, and an internet connection, no injustice done to me could ever go unnoticed. Alone against the world, I could still have my say without anyone being able to shut me down.

So, shouldn’t this be everyone’s right?

Those who found my voice and my words to be interesting, they started listening. And after a short while, they too joined in.

At this advent of the personal computers, I was told that large companies destroyed old computers in order to balance market supply and demand. Whether this was an urban legend or not, I don’t know. But the idea of human beings destroying fully functional computers stung like tightening barb wires around my young heart. To me, this was far worse than even burning books.

Countries where everyone in the population has neutral internet access, they simply won’t go to war against each other, I reasoned.

Now, I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of injustice. After all, we’re all human beings and conflicting interests will always result in cruelty. And I have no intention of messing with Mother Nature. Our biology isn’t binary like the machines and there will always be something worth fighting for because such is life. For better or worse, such is our drama as a species.

But there’s nothing that says that we can’t all have a voice.

The internet is the Fifth Estate

The day will come when all human beings must have access to the internet, a day when each individual on this planet is connected to each and everyone else. Governments will try to take advantage of this and they will try to design the computer systems to their benefit. Even in a country with such liberal traditions as Sweden, the government is monitoring each and every email sent through a server based on our soil.

Governments will not be idle while this power is being redistributed back to the people — and will legislate to shift the dynamic in their favour. Even in a country with such liberal traditions as Sweden, the government is monitoring each and every email sent through our national servers.

Power corrupts, and this raw data power is simply far too great not to try to tap into for the authorities. They will continue to try — and they will always say that “it’s for your own good.” But with every human being connected and free to speak their minds, we stand a fighting chance of a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where injustice can’t go unnoticed. But in order to get here, we need to acknowledge some basic truths, truths that might not be as self-evident as they should be:

The United Nations must recognise net neutrality and internet access in the declaration of human rights.

Human rights 2.0

Information is by nature the accumulation of all things ever learned and is, therefore, the rightful domain of the human race. It’s the idea of the public library in Alexandria — but digital, global, and social. Internet access means that all accumulated knowledge can become available to everyone, through online education and e-commerce across borders.

Integrity and privacy of the individual always supersede the security claims of any government, since individual freedom is of far greater importance than the authorities’ abilities not to abuse their powers. And this starts with net neutrality.

You could argue that I’m wrong; that internet access for everyone won’t make this world a better place. At such claims, I have no argument. I have no magic crystal ball. But what I can tell you, is that I’m still that little kid who thinks that freedom of speech and technology is a pretty awesome combination.

human rights | Media Issues & Politics | Doctor Spin
Credit to Paul Downey for this wonderful illustration.

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash.

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Avatar of Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.org/
Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Communication Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
  1. Really great post and well-timed for the SOPA. I truly look forward to the day information is accessibile to everyone and education is more highly valued (not fiscally, mind you). 

    What I hope for more, however, is that the spread of devices and information will lead to a more fact-checking mentality among people. As the public library goes global, it becomes easier to publish material no matter who you are. 

    The good: less mediated propaganda and more user-generated/controlled content. 
    The bad: anyone can “contribute” anything and content could indeed become highly mediated by power-oriented institutions. 

    I know I am always questioning what I read, but I don’t always follow up on what issues I question. Understanding context and authenticity of claims is going to be huge in the age of (more) information. 

    Thanks for sharing, Jerry.

    • It is a legitimate concern, especially since tomorrow’s class society might be closely related to the quality of data that you can access.

      I’m sure data mining and analytics will develop into a profession in its own right, with professionals scavenging the public domain, searching for clean data sets. I also believe that the schooling system must reform and focus on how to abstain and validate data.

      As for knowing one’s sources, I think there will be professional curators, a new type of journalists specializing in database journalism.

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