Several events within the past year show us that Internet usage is a privilege, not a right. Citizens of Egypt, for example, were completely denied Internet access during a series of protests in early 2011. Not only did this cut them off from communicating with family and friends around the country and the globe, but also it restricted their rights to expression and free speech.
However, a recent conference of the United Nations and the European Union declared that Internet access is not anymore a privilege, but rather a human rights necessity, and that it cannot be denied under any circumstances. Thus, Internet regulation, to a certain extent, is wrong.
Internet Regulation in China
So if Internet access is considered to be a fundamental human right, why then are there still so many instances of citizens being denied this right? A recent study done by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that between 2009 and 2010 alone, the Chinese government shut down 1.3 million websites, or 40% of total websites based in the country.
This clearly seems to go against China’s own constitution, which guarantees free speech. So why is this happening? If content is deemed unfit by the government, it will be removed. Therefore, they believe their content is improving simultaneously along with their Internet regulation tightening. The “Great Firewall of China” seems to be getting bigger.
Proposed Regulation in the United States
Closer to home, another interesting aspect of regulation is the National Asset Act. Proposed by Senator Joe Lieberman in June of 2010, this bill wishes to increase the security in cyberspace by preventing attacks that could threaten the U.S. economy or telecommunications industry.
People have accused Lieberman of suggesting that the President has a “kill switch” that would shut off the Internet to the country, but he denies these claims. He has stated that “the government should never take over the Internet,” and that the President would simply have more power to perform “emergency measure” in the event of a cyber attack. To the people, however, this can easily be seen as an effort to strengthen the government’s capacity for Internet regulation. We’ll keep you posted on what comes of this bill.
Capitalize on Your Privilege
What does this information mean to you? In short, take advantage of your opportunity to use the Internet. Whether you simply use it for surfing or for social networking, small business internet marketing or keeping up on the news, recognize it as a gift from our government for the ability to use it uninterrupted.