[IRP] Outcomes of call on right to access/right to the Internet.

Dixie Hawtin Dixie
Thu Dec 9 18:25:48 EET 2010

Hi Parminder, Michael, Shaila, Lisa et al.,

I don't want to take up all of your time, so my position can be summarized as: I don't think we should put a Right to the Internet in Version 1.1 of the Charter.

The details of why I think that are as follows:
In the first article of the Charter we are talking about access issues, thus it is semantically accurate to call this article "access to the Internet". A "right to the Internet" is a different right. My understanding is that the "right to the Internet" would demand all of the same things that we are currently asking for in the Charter, only they would all form part of one overarching right: the right to the Internet.

In which case, the Charter would look very different. It would become the Charter on the Right to the Internet, and all of the current provisions would become different constituent parts of that right, much like the Declaration on the Right to Development (see http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/rtd.htm)

If the "Right to the Internet" incorporates something above and beyond what we already have in the Charter, please say so.

So: if the substance is the same, what is the benefit in presenting it as one overarching right? From what I understand the main advantage in demanding a "Right to the Internet" is that everything to do with that right is contained within the same four words and that this can have great rhetorical and political power.

This is true, but I think there are also risks in this approach, and in my eyes the risks outweigh the benefits. For me the risks are as follows:

1.       I can't find anybody arguing for a Right to the Internet. I have been looking all morning, and everything I find is arguing for a "Right to Access the Internet." In this case, it will be far more effective (in my opinion) to add our voices to this momentum which already exists.

2.       If we talk about a Right to the Internet I don't think we can deny that we are asking for a new right (in fact I think, Parminder, you would like us to be explicitly demanding a new right) and the exercise will change purpose (in my view) and become essentially a campaign for a new right to the Internet. First I question whether we have the resources and the will to run such a campaign, but more importantly from what I've heard about the "Right to Communication" campaign, I feel we will be shooting ourselves in the foot, and as Shaila said, our Charter will fall at the first hurdle.

3.       Finally I think that "a right to the Internet" implies that the Internet is analogous with a Right to education, or the right to an adequate standard of living, or the right to self-determination. In my eyes it is not. Those rights are ends in themselves, whereas I believe the only reason any of us are arguing for this Charter is because the Internet is one of the best tools for realizing existing rights, both civil and political and economic , social and cultural. I think this distinction is captured in the "right to access the Internet".

I recognize that some people in the Coalition that the risks also outweigh the benefits in claiming a right to access the Internet. To my eyes it is different, there is growing evidence that more and more people are seeing "access to the Internet" as a fundamental right because it is critical to the full enjoyment of so many existing human rights. Thus I think it can be argued that we are not arguing for a new right, but rather that the rights remain the same  (e.g. freedom of expression, right to an adequate standards of living, right to self-determination), but the reality of the world has changed, and in this new world those rights imply a right to access.

Finally, I just want to say, I'm not against a "Right to the Internet" in principle, I've taken a strategic position. And therefore I believe it would be very valuable to talk to as many people about this as possible while we are consulting on Version 1.1, and then if we discover that we can argue for this right without undermining the Charter, we can put it into Version 2.0.

What about including this compromise paragraph in the Preamble?
This Charter reinterprets and explains universal human rights in the context of the Internet; in doing so it may be interpreted as defining the necessary elements of a new right to the Internet, should such a right emerge.

Best, Dixie
Dixie Hawtin
Researcher Global Partners and Associates
338 City Road, London, EC1V 2PY, UK
Office: + 44 207 239 8251     Mobile: +44 7769 181 556
dixie at global-partners.co.uk<mailto:lisa at global-partners.co.uk>  www.global-partners.co.uk<http://www.global-partners.co.uk/>

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