Commentary: Making access to the internet a human right can address inequalities in access to public discourse
Author: Sam Bocetta, OpenGlobalRights, Published on: 12 June 2020
I argue that by making access to the internet a human right, inequalities in access to public discourse can be addressed, especially in countries where access to free speech is currently limited. From this right to public discourse flow certain other human rights—such as those to education, expression, and association... There are several other issues that have been highlighted by the pandemic. One is that, though the average citizen is more aware of the safety of their data than ever before, the desperate need for quick, easy solutions to remote working has meant that many people haven’t been paying attention to the new software they are using... Many countries around the world—including the US—are in the midst of voting in local and general elections, and the pandemic has shifted debate online. The internet has become a powerful driving force for political inclusion... [W]e cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic—no matter how serious it is—undermine the right to political participation. At times of crisis, it is even more critical that citizens have a voice, and a platform where they can hold their governments to account... Without free speech—which, today, is synonymous with access to the internet—democracy dies. And no pandemic is worth that cost.