Access Now and the Internet Society on the need to protect the core of the internet for digital rights
The internet is changing our world. It can empower us. It can connect us and facilitate information exchange across borders. It allows our voice to be heard when others want to silence us. Internet access has been recognized by the United Nations as an enabler of fundamental human rights, like the right to free expression.
Yet we are living in a critical time for the internet and people’s rights online, and there is urgency for collective action.
Now, more than ever, we need to stand up for the internet as a shared resource for everyone, available and open to all. Its interoperable nature has already brought us countless positive opportunities — and the hope that it can help us reach a brighter future is what people around the world are fighting for.
But it’s not a future that includes all of us.
For some people, it is simply because there is no connectivity and access in the first place. For many people in remote or underserved areas, the internet continues to be a luxury.
For others, it’s because someone — usually a government — disrupts the internet or mobile apps to control what people can say or do. In the name of ensuring national security or public order, authorities are imposing internet blackouts in a worrying rising trend around the world. It is generating heavy costs for people, society, and the economy: the cost of shutdowns between June 2015 and June 2016 was estimated at a conservative $2.4 billion. If the pace of this trend continues, there is a danger that internet shutdowns will become the default every time a government wants to control online speech and content.
People should not have to struggle to get online and to stay online. Nor should they fear that the very existence of the internet is at risk of a devastating state attack. Instead they should trust that the open, globally connected and secure network will be available everywhere, to everyone, so they can build a business, learn, and freely communicate.
We need everyone’s voice to speak on behalf of an internet that empowers us. The starting point is to protect the core of the internet and the trusted collaborations that keep it together. People’s rights won’t be protected in the digital age without a globally accessible, trustworthy, and secure internet. And we need governments to understand that using the internet to control or manipulate what we say and do can not only violate human rights but also thwart the internet’s promise for education, development, and a better future for everyone.
Together let’s #SwitchItOn and #KeepItOn! Not only in support of access and a truly inclusive internet — but for the very essence of what makes up the internet’s public core.