Most of us have unlimited access to the Internet through various means of technology every day of our lives. However, not many of us actually pause to consider whether our access to the web is a fundamental human right for all or a luxury reserved for those who can afford it or who are in the right geographical location for optimum usage. Integral fundamental freedoms, which include the freedom of expression and the freedom of speech, have become repudiated by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, India and Cuba through their intentional prevention and disruption of access to information online. Often we simultaneously fail to appraise our democratic legislation which grants us the freedom to be liberated from the isolated corners of cyberspace and to recognise that our counterparts in other developed nations enjoy no such freedoms. The North Koreans can chose from as little as 30 websites which can be slow to load and are basic and feature largely round propaganda.
Luxury to some…
We live in an era where digital communications have become so omnipresent that devising a life devoid of them seems inconceivable. Citizens across the world are free to disseminate their own dissent regarding political and current affairs as well as divulge their contempt for certain societal norms without suffering catastrophic ramifications which result in a prison sentence or execution. However, Chinese citizens find themselves at the hands of an authoritarian government who remain skeptical of the internet, perceiving it as a onslaught to their power, and believe imposing coercive censorship policies, for example placing some 30,000 censors on Internet searches, will extinguish ‘foreign infiltration’ On step further is North Korea. To call North Korean ‘authoritarian’ would be to put it mildly. Internet is available in the North Korea, but only permitted with special authorization and primarily used for government purposes and by foreigners. The North Koreans dogmatically pursue to keep its monopoly as the only source of information and ideas to the North Korean people and in doing so systematically oppress the nation into an insulated death chamber.
Human Right for All?
Complete digital darkness is not even feasible for societal sex offenders. Justices have openly stated that nowadays it is entirely unreasonable to ban anybody from accessing the internet in their home – even registered sexual offenders – with Lord Justice Hughes stating that:
Before the creation of the internet, if a defendant kept books of pictures of child pornography it would not have occurred to anyone to ban him from possession of all printed material. The internet is a modern equivalent.
Many laws and statutes were passed when the internet was not a prolific phenomenon and the courts are only getting around to recognising this now. The Internet has transcended into one of society’s most imperative platforms for the expression of opinion and thought; distribution of information and a social forum for communication. That said, freedom of expression through the Internet, in the UK, will remain a qualified human right. That is, restrictions can be imposed only if that restriction is provided for by law and is necessary and proportionate in a democratic society. For example, full internet bans have occasionally been permitted by the courts in the cases of terrorist suspects subject to a control order but granted to convicted sex offenders.
Modern day equivalent?
It would be hazardous not to bring the national conceptions of ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of speech’ in line with the ways and means of modern life. Whereas most towns would have had a public square at the hub of the community where people could propagate and publicize opinions, the youth of today have a voice like never have before and are able to revel in democracy on an worldwide, virtual platform. The Internet has empowered individuals in facilitating them to widely disseminate their thoughts to audiences as broad as those of established media organisations. and to diminish such freedom of expression is to reduce a citizen to a mere commodity.
“All censorships exist to prevent anyone from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently, the first condition of progress is the removal of censorship.”
– George Bernard Shaw