According to a study by the University of Birmingham in the UK, free internet access should be considered a basic human right. The study notes that people in developing countries lack meaningful ways to influence global players shaping their everyday lives. Researchers gave the example of Kerala that the southern state in India has declared universal internet access a human right and aims to provide it for its 35 million people by this year.
Researchers also explain as political engagement increasingly takes place online, basic freedoms that many take for granted including free expression, freedom of information and freedom of assembly are undermined if some citizens have access to the internet and others do not. Published in the Journal of Applied Philosophy, the study indicates that the internet could be a primary means of protecting other basic human rights like life, liberty, and freedom from torture.
"Internet access is no luxury, but instead a moral human right and everyone should have unmonitored and uncensored access to this global medium -- provided free of charge for those unable to afford it," Merten Reglitz, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham, said in a statement. "Without such access, many people lack a meaningful way to influence and hold accountable supranational rule-makers and institutions," Reglitz said.
As per the researchers, people without internet access don't have a say in the making of the rules they must obey and which shape their life chances. Reglitz added that exercising free speech and obtaining information was now heavily dependent on having internet access. Researchers also said that much of today's political debate took place online and politically relevant information is shared on the internet, which means the relative value these freedoms held for people 'offline' had decreased.
Researchers further said that the study attributes unprecedented possibilities to the internet for protecting basic human rights to life, liberty and bodily integrity. While the researchers acknowledged that being online does not guarantee these rights, they cite examples of internet engagement that helped hold governments and institutions to account. These examples include the 'Arab Spring' which saw new ways of global reporting on government atrocities, the researchers said.
Last but not least, researchers also gave the example of the #MeToo campaign which became a huge movement online.