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Berners-Lee: Web Access Is a 'Human Right' 480

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'll-buy-that dept.
jbrodkin writes "Two decades after creating the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee says humans have become so reliant on it that access to the Web should now be considered a basic right. In a speech at an MIT symposium, Berners-Lee compared access to the Web with access to water. 'Access to the Web is now a human right,' he said. 'It's possible to live without the Web. It's not possible to live without water. But if you've got water, then the difference between somebody who is connected to the Web and is part of the information society, and someone who (is not) is growing bigger and bigger.'"
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Berners-Lee: Web Access Is a 'Human Right'

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  • Go Tim (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tsingi (870990) <graham.rick@g m a il.com> on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:11AM (#35808200)
    Meanwhile, governments are in the process of selling the internet to corporations.

    A free and open internet may disappear if we don't fight for net neutrality. And we need it more now than ever.

    • Re:Go Tim (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NotAGoodNickname (1925512) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:20AM (#35808326)
      Hate to break it to you, but the "Internet" is already owned by corporations. You didn't think the government strung all that fiber and installed all those routers did you? The internet isn't ARPANET anymore...
      • Re:Go Tim (Score:5, Insightful)

        by clang_jangle (975789) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:29AM (#35808464) Journal
        The infrastructure that was mostly paid for by the taxpayers. So we do own it, really.
        • Not even close (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:39AM (#35808622)

          The infrastructure that was mostly paid for by the taxpayers. So we do own it, really.

          Sorry buddy but that is utterly false. The modern internet is run over fiber optics that was laid across the country by Quest and Level 3 and other companies. The last mile that runs to your house was wired in by a company. The government has not been a majority spender on the internet for at least a decade, probably longer... what Arpanet gave us was the concept of the internet, which private business has taken and run with.

        • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @12:14PM (#35809088)

          The infrastructure that was mostly paid for by the taxpayers. So we do own it, really.

          Much like the railroads were given free land and various rights in the 19th century. Have you tried getting a free ride from the rail roads?

          Personally, as a taxpayer, I'd rather have a free in the F/A-18 I've paid for. :-)

        • Re:Go Tim (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Rolgar (556636) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @12:22PM (#35809190)

          We don't own it really. Maybe you think we should own it (and to that I agree), but we have no rights to the lines that are already in place.

          If we want to own the lines, we need to form a coop, get ourselves access rights, buy the fibre, and build our own network. Interconnect all of our local networks, and help pay for it buy charging the businesses the rights to connect to us.

          Last month, I was thinking about doing this very thing, but the financial risk to do it myself was too great, what with a family to be concerned about.

    • Re:Go Tim (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mcmonkey (96054) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:30AM (#35808468) Homepage

      Yes please. Go.

      I mean, leave. Go away. With all due respect to many great accomplishments, this is ridiculous.

      "Web access should be seen as a right, too, because anyone who lacks Web access will fall behind their more connected peers."

      Anyone who lacks $1,000,000 in their bank account will fall behind their more moneyed peers. Is being rich now a right?

      And what does this mean, to be a right? Free speech as right means the government doesn't have to subsidize my printing press, but if I have a printing press, the government can't tell me what to print or not print.

      Does web access is a right mean the government doesn't have to subsidize my computer, but if I have a computer the government can't prevent my access?

      So if I find an insufficiently secured WiFi access point, the government can't stop my access? I can't be arrest for theft of service?

      I don't get it.

      • Re:Go Tim (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lord Ender (156273) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:47AM (#35808736) Homepage

        Information and money are not the same thing. The developed world has universally recognized that education is a right. Information fits hand-in-hand with that.

        Should wealth be a right? Well, probably, but that's not possible. Let's put that question aside until we invent replicators and infinite energy sources. Today, however, we do have the means to give everyone education and information.

        • Re:Go Tim (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Cytotoxic (245301) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:07PM (#35809750)

          I'm surprised at your definition of a right, particularly with that handle.

          Right to education would come under a right to free association (as in nobody should be able to prevent you from obtaining an education). Beyond that, there is a societal need to have educated members so they might choose to subsidize education. That's not the same thing as a right.

          Rights are inherent in being a human. They are not granted to you by any outside entity. They can only be infringed upon (or not). Rights to speech, your own thoughts and opinions. To hang out with whomever you choose. To not be assaulted or to be secure in your possessions. These are all things that you have absent any gift from outside. In fact, it takes an outside application of force to remove or prevent the exercise of these rights.

          Education? That requires somebody else to do something. Claiming that you have a right to an education means you have a right for someone else to teach you. That is not possible under the definition of a right - because I certainly have a right to not spend my time teaching you, and the same can be said for every other individual on the planet.

          Information technology is the same thing - having a right to not be interfered with is not the same thing as having a right for somebody else to give you a computer, modem, network router, and connection to their network. Claiming this as a right doesn't make any sense. If that was a right, then you would be able to claim all of these things for free. Which means you claim a right to violate another person's rights in confiscating their property or time. This cannot be a right.

          And wealth? Holy crap, what are you thinking? Do we all have the right to be NBA All-Stars too? Or how about the heavyweight champion of the world?

          I think you completely conflated the idea of "it is something that is really important" with "it is a right". These are absolutely not the same thing at all. Food is really, really important. Way more important than education or information. You'll die without it. Food is not a right. Neither is shelter, water, transportation.... all of the necessities of life. These all require work to be done - somebody has to grow the food, or hunt, or gather, whatever. You can't just go grab food from someone who grew it because you are hungry. The same goes for money - you exchange your labor for money... nobody has the right to confiscate your money, any more than they have the right to force you to perform labor.

          There's a completely separate question about what a society wants to come together and provide as basic services to all citizens - but that isn't the same thing as a right at all.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        "I don't get it."
        Obviously.

        Means of communication always become a right, as they should. A majority of communication in the world is Dependant one the internet. Meaning, you must have access to get buy in the real world. And it's only going to get more like that.
        Try to find a reasonable paying job without an email address.

        " Free speech as right means the government doesn't have to subsidize my printing press, but if I have a printing press, the government can't tell me what to print or not print."
        Those are

      • Unless you've been living in a cave, I think the point was demostrated in Egypt very well on what the difference is between having a right to access the Internet and not having a right to access the Internet is. Everyone has a right to drink water. But you still have to pay for it. But no government that I know of bans the use of drinking water. (Though it is regulated... but technically, so is speech.)

        I mean, leave. Go away. With all due respect to many great accomplishments, this is ridiculous.

        ...

        And what does this mean, to be a right? Free speech as right means the government doesn't have to subsidize my printing press, but if I have a printing press, the government can't tell me what to print or not print.

        Does web access is a right mean the government doesn't have to subsidize my computer, but if I have a computer the government can't prevent my access?

        So if I find an insufficiently secured WiFi access point, the government can't stop my access? I can't be arrest for theft of service?

        I don't get it.

        It's obvious you know exactly what TBL is saying. You answered your own question, then proceeded to man

      • Anyone who lacks $1,000,000 in their bank account will fall behind their more moneyed peers. Is being rich now a right?

        No, but being allowed to use money is. Having $1 million in the bank is like having a 10 gbps connection, you are better off than other less fortunate people, but at least you are allowed to play the game.

        So if I find an insufficiently secured WiFi access point, the government can't stop my access? I can't be arrest for theft of service?

        No, it means if you are willing to use an access point according to a contract with the provider the government cannot stop you. Same as they cannot stop you from reading a book you bought, but they can arrest you if you steal a book.

    • If it was government controlled do you think you really would be paying less for it, or expect to see major speed upgrades every few years?

      Governments are a failure based organizations meaning if you are an employee it isn't what you do right that will get you promoted but what you do wrong that will get you fired. Vs. Most corporations are success based who reward people for doing thing right and if they did enough right things they will overlook a mistake.

      Now the what needs to be considered which type of

  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:12AM (#35808210) Journal

    **AA vs. Tim Berners-Lee. Round 1 Fight!

    New Zealand!
    France!
    USA!
    UK!
    Sweden!
    China!

  • Right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:13AM (#35808226)

    So not providing web access is in the same category as e.g. imprionment without trial or torture? Will we see stories about how people in Guantanamo Bay are *gasp* deprived of Facebook? This does seem to triviliase human rights just a little.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by PFI_Optix (936301)

      Agreed. I'm of the mind that a right is something which requires action to deny, but exists without any intervention by others. The right to free speech, for example, exists naturally: you can say whatever you want until someone comes along and coerces you to stop.

      This of course means that health care, education, and web access are NOT rights, because they require other people (doctors, teachers, ISPs) to provide services before such a "right" is accessible. I don't see how anything can be a right when the

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Then you better give up your right to a fair trial. It requires a judge to render that service, a jury of your peers to take their time off from work, and lawyers.

        It's no different at all from a doctor. You pay a lawyer if you can, else society will pay for one for you. Same for a doctor or the internet.

        • by PFI_Optix (936301)

          A trial at all requires those services. The judge is there whether it is fair or not.

        • This is a clever argument (I like it!), but it's flawed.

          It turns out that most of the time, you don't have a right to a jury or a fair trial. Go ahead and march into the nearest courthouse right now and demand a fair trial. You'll find that you can't get one, because you aren't currently being prosecuted for anything.

          The fair trial right is conditional on the government initiating the action of prosecuting you. That is, they wouldn't normally have the right to force you to attend court for trial or pun

      • Just because something is sometimes too scarce to provide for everyone, doesn't mean that they don't have a right to a share of it when it is plentiful.
        • by PFI_Optix (936301)

          You don't have a right to food. You have a right to produce food and no one has a right to take it away from you. If I have more food than I need, no one has the right to take it from me just because they don't have enough. You don't "have a right to a share" of things other people work hard to produce. If you want a share, earn it.

          Notice that I'm talking about RIGHTS. Not about the way our government works or the way people act and think today. I'm talking about natural rights.

      • Re:Right (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @12:00PM (#35808880) Journal

        In which case, you don't have the right to an attorney. You don't have the right to a trial by jury. You don't have the right to be free from discrimination in employment or housing.

        Hm nah. I'd rather have the rights than conform to your pedantically narrow definition of what a right is.

        • by PFI_Optix (936301)

          You don't have a right to a trial at all. Trials exist because we have laws that go beyond rights. We might be able to say there's a right to "fairness" or "justice" but those are harder to define.

          And no, I don't have a right to be free from discrimination. But I'd just as soon not do business with someone who wants to discriminate against me. Legal protection from discrimination is nice, but it's not a right.

      • Agreed. I'm of the mind that a right is something which requires action to deny, but exists without any intervention by others. The right to free speech, for example, exists naturally: you can say whatever you want until someone comes along and coerces you to stop.

        It's a good perspective, and actually something I'd like to see emphasized more when these types of discussions come up: a right is something that exists without anyone else being around, a social good is something that will benefit society in general if supported by others. Both are good to have, but it makes it difficult to have an honest discussion about either if people keep mixing the terms.

        Here's the thing: TBL might be wrong about web access being a right, but he is damn right about web access becomi

      • by iamhigh (1252742)
        There's a wiki for that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_and_legal_rights [wikipedia.org]
    • I don't think it trivializes human rights at all.

      Say for instance you have a third world country led by a petty dictator who declares it illegal to discuss politics with foreigners (e.g. Libya). If such a government set up a state television network and a state internet to spread lies and propaganda, while banning it's citizens from accessing the world wide web and talking to foreigners, then yes, I would say that a human right had been violated

      Basically, if you aren't economically able to provide access to

      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        Basically, if you aren't economically able to provide access to the internet for your citizens, you aren't committing a great injustice or war crime or whatever. But if you could provide it, and you choose to ban it instead, then that would sound like something wrong to me.

        You're ignoring the difference between banning and not providing. You're also ignoring the difference between right and human right.

        If my wife eats all the Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream and doesn't save me any, that's not right. But that doesn't mean access to ice cream is a human right.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is becoming a joke, first people try to claim health care is a right (as if I could just march in a doctor's office and demand my right to a checkup) and now this guy is trying to claim web access is a right? Does that mean he thinks the government should provide computers to all to exercise this right then?

    Please people, stop. You trivialize and diminish what real human rights are when you try to expand it to include goods and services and you feel are essential but they just aren't "rights".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by delinear (991444)
      If you only ever focus on what you consider the most fundamental rights, you will never lift the base level of human rights. We should, by now, be able to meet the rights for food and shelter and protection from harm (I know it's not an ideal world and many parts of it still do not) - there's nothing wrong with trying to improve the basic levels of other aspects of life. I already live in a country where I can walk into a doctor's office and demand a checkup. I also live in a country where the government pr
      • by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:33AM (#35808530)

        We should, by now, be able to meet the rights for food and shelter and protection from harm

        How can you have a 'right' to food, shelter and protection without enslaving others to provide those things for you? Don't those people have 'rights'?

        • by Simmeh (1320813)
          The guy providing food has the same rights, and expects to be provided the shelter and protection. The guy who builds the state funded homes expects the other guys burden of providing food to be met. Humans work in group, to increase everyones 'rights'.
          • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:51AM (#35808774) Journal

            And the other 100 people sitting on their asses expect those 3 to provide for them as well..

            After all it is their "Right."

          • by Kreigaffe (765218) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:55AM (#35808808)

            If my housing and food are provided for, I'm telling you right now.

            I'll never do anything productive, as I have no need to do so.

            I'm not just saying that as a big scary threat. I'm telling you -- I know myself. This is a fact. If I know that I'll be able to live in a warm house and have food on my table, without ever doing anything to earn it, I will never do anything to earn it.

            • by npsimons (32752) * on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:31PM (#35810074) Homepage Journal

              I'll never do anything productive, as I have no need to do so.

              I don't believe you. You mean to tell me there is nothing creative that interests you? You have no motivation, besides putting food on the table, to do anything? If you do, I pity you. And I'm fairly sure you are in a small minority, or at least conditioned to be that way. Most children, before they get through high school, are eager to learn and create, even though their food and housing are provided for. It's human nature.

            • by Xyrus (755017)

              That's really pathetic, but at least you admit it.

              Even if I was a millionaire, I would still be writing code, doing scientific research, and maybe even writing a book or three. Why? Because as part of our species it is my job to help further humanity and help ensure the future of our species. Personal rewards are just icing on the cake.

              I view life as something more meaningful than making myself comfortable and sleeping, eating, and shitting through my days. But perhaps I'm in the minority.

            • by IICV (652597) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @03:25PM (#35811194)

              I'm not just saying that as a big scary threat. I'm telling you -- I know myself. This is a fact. If I know that I'll be able to live in a warm house and have food on my table, without ever doing anything to earn it, I will never do anything to earn it.

              That may very well be the case, there are people like that.

              However, decades of experience in countries where things like housing and food are provided to those who have none has demonstrated that the vast, vast majority of people are not like that.

              The reason why you think you would act that way is probably because, as you imply in your post, you think you'd be living in a house - in other words, that your standard of living would be unchanged. That's not the case at all; you'd be living in high-density housing with relatively poor food. It would be good enough, but it wouldn't be very good.

              In reality, it's not very different from your current situation. You could drop out of society and go become a homeless person at any time; why haven't you? Because the quality of life wouldn't be to your satisfaction? Well then, let me assure you that while the quality of life under such a system would be better, it probably still wouldn't be something you would choose over working, when given the option.

          • by icebrain (944107) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @12:06PM (#35808948)

            But what happens when someone says "Why should I have to work? I just want to sit at home and play guitar/whack off/go fishing/watch youtube all day"? What happens when someone says "I want all of that stuff without having to work for it?"

            That's the problem with having all of this stuff just provided to everyone as entitlements/"rights". You wind up counting on people to contribute back, to carry their own weight... in short, to do the "right thing". Problem is, people don't do that. They're lazy and self-interested. If they see they can get all of the benefits without having to work, they won't work.

            At that point, either the people who are still working have to work harder to provide the same goods and services with less manpower, or they say "screw it, why should I have to work harder just because that guy doesn't want to?" and quit working themselves. The cycle repeats itself until there's nobody doing any work, and nobody gets free stuff anymore.

            Alternatively, you can force the lazy people to go back to work, but this presents its own problem. Forcing someone to work against his/her will sounds a lot like this thing we call "slavery", which just about anyone will agree is a Bad Thing.

            So which is it? Do you let the slackers get perpetual free rides and watch as your society crumbles under the burden of millions of freeloaders? Do you stand behind everyone and crack a whip to keep them working? Or do you leave it up to able-bodied individuals to provide for themselves?

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by delinear (991444)
              It's not an either/or choice - you do what pretty much every society already does, you provide a middle ground. Someone doesn't want to work? You don't let them starve in the gutter, but likewise you don't pay for a luxurious lifestyle. You give them just enough food and basic shelter to meet their needs and the option of working for a higher standard of living. Life is rarely black and white and this approach seems to kind of work - some slackers are content to live on nothing to avoid work, but for most p
      • If you only ever focus on what you consider the most fundamental rights, you will never lift the base level of human rights.

        And that's exactly what the libertarians want. That everyone has nothing more than "natural" rights, by which they mean the inherent capabilities of animals, since these are the only "rights" that can be guaranteed without affecting any other person in any way.

        I for one would rather form a civilized society with other adults who are willing to be interdependent for, and contribute to, the common good of the society.

        But to a libertarian, not being able to directly and single-handedly choose what rules you li

    • The question is, why do we have our rights? Some, like a right to water, etc... are basic because they are needed for survival.
      Some, like freedom of speech, are there to protect our other rights.
      The question is, in the modern day and age, can you truly have freedom of speech without Internet access? It's become so vital to communicate, and such a powerful tool, having access the internet is a safeguard against tyranny, just as a soapbox was before it.
      Internet access protects your other rights. That is enough to mean maybe we should think of it as a right.
      I'm not saying, just as he isn't, that it's as essential as water or whatever to survival, but we should aim for better than that, and do in other instances, so why not here?
      • by khr (708262)

        Some, like freedom of speech, are there to protect our other rights.

        The question is, in the modern day and age, can you truly have freedom of speech without Internet access?

        Sure. The freedom of speech is that we can say what we want without fear of reprisals, not that the platform for saying it will be provided. So, even without internet access we can say what we want.

        Not to argue that the internet isn't a powerful platform for communicating.

    • When the USA was founded people gathered in the town square to hear other people speak. This right was put into the Constitution of the United States, as the right of free speech.

      Where is the town hall today? Well let me tell you its on the Internet. Where is the capitalism? So, your telling me the Bell system has the right to tax us for Internet access?

      We as least should have the right to some part of the radio spectrum for a mess of roof top routers. This would give small Ma and Pa ISP a chance f
    • by Veggiesama (1203068) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:11PM (#35809776)

      This is becoming a joke, first people try to claim health care is a right (as if I could just march in a doctor's office and demand my right to a checkup)

      It's no joke. You can walk into any emergency room in US and demand your right to be seen. I would hate to live in a country where I would be denied care if I had a certain skin color, if I didn't belong to a certain social class, or if I didn't have enough money to pay.

      Sure, you have to pay later, but someone has to foot the bill for any public service, just like someone has to foot the bill for a police force and a justice system to enforce your other rights. If you can afford to pay the doctor's bill, you pay. If you can't afford to pay, then the government (AKA your fellow taxpayers) will cover you.

      I want to live in a society that ensures everyone will be taken care of when they are sick or injured, especially those most vulnerable like children or the poor. That seems like my idea of a just, fair society. The trick, of course, is finding the most affordable way to do this, and who knows if we are anywhere near that ideal yet.

  • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:15AM (#35808248)

    fill in the X with your favorite personal privileged that you'd like other people to finance for you.

    Me, I'd like fast cars, a big house, and loose women. I mean, those are all things that make me happy and happieness is a basic human right, right?

    Moreover, the divide between myself and those who have the sweet cars, fast women, and kickass houses is growing bigger and bigger every year, and I think it's high time that the government stepped in and gave me the crap I'm asking for.

    • Moreover, the divide between myself and those who have the sweet cars, fast women, and kickass houses is growing bigger and bigger every year, and I think it's high time that the government stepped in and gave me the crap I'm asking for.

      The divide between you and the government is also growing bigger and bigger every year, and that's the real problem.

    • Quick vehicles, large livable buildings and females covered in grease are not culture. The internet itself is so twisted into culture and way of life now that it almost is a necessity. As TVs die, non voip phone calls end, newspapers become news-websites, etc etc eventually the only source of all of this will be the "internet" as a whole. Therefore making sure it's unrestricted, readily available and easily accessible should be handed now, rather than after the politicians have made a huge damn mess of i
    • by thynk (653762)

      fill in the X with your favorite personal privileged that you'd like other people to finance for you.

      Me, I'd like fast cars, a big house, and loose women. I mean, those are all things that make me happy and happieness is a basic human right, right?

      Close. Pursuit of happiness is a right. I agree with your feelings on this, tho I feel saying something is a right means your access to it must be protected, not necessarily provided for you at the cost of others.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        There is no specifications on how I pursue happiness. I personally prefer to vote for politicians that will provide me more stuff at the expense of the greedy rich bastards that have taken it all from me anyway. Why should I bother with "Productive Work" and being just another tool in the machine when I can sit around eating subsidized food stamped Cheeto's and collect government checks.

    • by delinear (991444)
      I don't think TBL needs other people to finance his web access. He invented the bloody thing, I should think he can pay for his own access.
    • by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:34AM (#35808564) Homepage Journal

      Access doesn't really mean anything more than having the opportunity to swing by your local library to use one of the public computers from time to time. Access does not mean having personal broadband, an iPad, a netbook, or any of the other gadgets and toys that some would like to think it means.

      I do believe that basic access should be a guaranteed right -- but that does not absolve the individual from having to pay their bills, do some legwork to get to the library, or otherwise put in an effort to make use of their rights. Think "voting" -- just because you have a "right" to vote does not mean anyone else has to do diddly squat to help you get to the polling station.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:18AM (#35808286)

    I think Berners Lee and others are assuming an importance to the web that it doesn't deserve. Sure, without it life can become harder if you do a lot of shopping and banking online , but jesus Tim , get a sense of perspective.

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      I think others are assuming an importance to electricity it doesn't deserve. Sure, without it life can become harder if you like having lighting, heating, and refrigeration , but jesus, get a sense of perspective.

      I think others are assuming an importance to telecommunications it doesn't deserve. Sure, without it life can become harder if you like calling places in cases of emergency , but jesus, get a sense of perspective.

      I think others are assuming an importance to interstate roads it doesn't deserve. Sure

  • Oh baby I like it raw (data that is).

  • by bhunachchicken (834243) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:20AM (#35808328) Homepage

    ... that the idea behind human rights was to prevent torture, exploitation and give everyone the right to the fair trial.

    Internet access? How pathetic the human race has become.

  • (He also said it's important for the Web not to simply become an instrument to spread unfounded rumors and conspiracy theories. One of his goals is to make the Web a system in which scientists can share data and information more effectively.)

    In other words, its a right but we need people, most likely like him, who control what it used for because obviously there are too many people who don't exercise this right "correctly". So we have yet another intellectual looking down on us, out to protect us from the b

  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:25AM (#35808400) Journal
    A lot of people confuse the two. For instance, in the USA, we have the right to print our own newspapers, pamphlets, flyers, etc., collectively known as the freedom of the press (which obviously extends to electronic media as well). In this case, the government can't prevent you from doing it, but they also don't have to supply you with the means to produce those materials. I'm afraid more people will view the "right" to internet access as a government provided product that costs the entire society, in which case it is actually an entitlement. The bad thing about entitlements is that the government can also place restrictions on how you use them, since they're holding the purse strings...
    • This is precisely correct. Everyone is free to pursue happiness. As many of you Slashdotters know, if there's one thing that everyone needs, it's sex. Why doesn't the government provide you with this? Because you'd need the cooperation of other people, who would not necessarily want to cooperate.

  • If Tim Berners-Lee wants to advocate for network neutrality, then he should do that. Masking it as a "right to web access" is downright silly, and ultimately counterproductive to honest network neutrality aims.

    Of course, I suppose if your advocacy for network neutrality is simply a means for getting political control over the internet, then I guess classifying it as a "right" would help make that happen. After all, the government must ultimately control the internet in order to ensure access to all.

  • basic human rights must be those that are necessary for the healthy production, growth and continued life of a human being in reasonably respectable conditions. Maybe after an overwhelming majority of all people on this planet have these rights we can consider expanding it to "access to a world-wide communication network". Until then there's an overwhelming majority of peoples in all countries and societies that simply don't *need* the internet.
  • by SheridanR (2040452) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:32AM (#35808514) Homepage
    Internet access isn't a human right. Nevertheless, the internet is an incredibly important tool used by all modern nations of the world. To that end, internet access should be treated as just another facet of the basic infrastructure of any modern nation. Basically, internet access ought to be treated as a postal system or the highways: it's so important to the survival of any nation, economically and militarily, that the government should regulate it and allow citizens to use it as a public system. As it is, internet access in modern America is what the railroad companies were during 19th century America: they are owned by huge, ultra competitive corporations, whose economic fights are doing more harm than good to the nation.
  • Even here in Norway only 90% of the households have Internet. The rest for the most part don't want it. There's people living without TV, A lot of things would be very odd not to have here in a western society but I don't consider them human rights.

    Some rights are guaranteed public services, but they're in no way human rights. For example all permanent residences here in Norway is able to get a landline at a fixed rate. It's a subsidized service paid for by the government and the telco is compensated for it

  • by tmosley (996283) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:34AM (#35808558)
    There are NO positive rights, only negative rights. You have a right not to be stolen from or murdered. You do NOT have a right to have stuff given to you, because that implies that there is a right to take that thing from someone else. Such "rights" lead straight to hell.

    If you want to argue for net neutrality, fine, but arguing that someone must take on the role of Santa Claus is just asinine, and highly destructive if such mandates carry the force of law and the threat of violence from the state which follows.
    • by Shimmer (3036)

      That's a logical position, but I don't think it's entirely compatible with the accepted notion of human rights.

      For example, the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial. This is a "positive" right that other citizens are forced to grant.

      The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also includes several positive rights: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary

      • by bmajik (96670)

        The problem with positive rights is that they require the threat of violence.

        The other side of the UDHR coin is that it requires mobs with guns to COMPEL some doctor somewhere to provide healthcare, to COMPEL some homebuilder to build an "affordable" house, and to COMPEL some "employer" somewhere to provide a "Decent job".. maybe at a "living wage".

        The reason positive rights are evil is because they rest on the threat of back-end violence. You can grant everyone the "right" of healthcare as long as you supp

    • by ceiling9 (1241316)
      A better way to word it would be to say people have the right to not have the internet taken away from them. Provided a person lives somewhere where a company can provide them access, they can pay for it, etc, then no government or other organization should be able to prevent someone from accessing it freely.
  • Oh great, are we going to see celebrities on TV now begging "poor jdhdhhdhdhjdi in Ethiopia can't even afford clean internet, please donate bandwidth so he doesn't feel like a social outcast! With your help jjjuyyttfcccvbbj can start tweeting today!"
  • large scale rape in the Congo/Zaire, etc
    thousands of arsenic contaminated wells in Bangladesh
    thousands of drug deaths and kidnappings in mexico
    (next 100 omitted for clarity)
    got give it to that Timlee dude, he has his prioritys in the right place
    (cant resist) a country where Jersey Shore is the top rated show...and D Trump is taken seriously
  • That's like saying driving is a human right because it is so prevalent in modern society. The problem is that every time you dilute what truly are basic human rights by adding human "wants" you minimize the rights that truly are basic human rights (life, food, shelter, etc.).

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @11:56AM (#35808820) Homepage

    Positive rights are "more fun" than negative rights, which is why I think most people gravitate to them. This is how we get arguments about how great Cuban healthcare is, while completely ignoring the fact that if you own an unlicensed cell phone in Cuba you will quite literally be facing "reeducation through hard labor" or worse. The left has almost completely abandoned negative rights except when someone does something to a protected group that is bad enough to make a liberal say "there ought to be a law..." (and by coincidence, there was, in the Constitution).

    Instead of focusing on rights to this or that material thing, how about getting hot and bothered about the poor not having these rights in most of the world:

    1. The right to freedom of speech.
    2. The right to worship freely.
    3. The right to protection from abusive searches and seizures.
    4. The right to keep and bear arms for personal defense.
    5. The right to a public, honest and open trial with legal defense.
    6. The right to not be tortured.
    7. Habeus corpus as a human right.

  • Guy who (effectively) invents something believes it's essential. News at 11.

    All praise due to TBL for his actual accomplishments, but seriously?

    "Human Rights" are an enlightened concept of the modern age, by which some (generally) well-paid white guy in a comfortable office somewhere who has never suffered a hardship more severe than getting the wrong coffee order at Starbucks, tries to define the things that he doesn't think he could live without.

    Pardon me if I don't take him seriously any longer.

  • MIT had symposium on its contributions to computing on MIT's 150th birthday (Sunday). It was fascinating to see some the Ancient Big Names in computing like Tim, or the inventor of Data Abstraction (Barbara) speak first hand. It was less satisfying to see MIT define its role in current computing. Industry skates circles around academic research now. But there is some attempt to provide a theory framework for the clever hacks industry develops. Computing was just a glimmer on the horizon at the MIT 100th b
  • First of all, people seem to confuse rights and necessities quite often. Things like food, water, shelter, and medical care are necessities but not necessarily rights. I don't think that internet access is either a right or a necessity. It's definitely beneficial, but I would argue that you would fall farther behind your peers without access to transportation, a phone, or even a clean pair of clothes than you would without the internet.
  • by npsimons (32752) * on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:14PM (#35809812) Homepage Journal

    For pete's sake, comparing web access to "fast cars, a big house and loose women" [slashdot.org]? Or "a million dollars" [slashdot.org]? Fucking retarded.

    Granted, maybe "right" isn't the correct word, but tell me, would *you* be able to survive without access to the Internet? Seriously, if you had to look for a new job, do you think that having only printed paper classifieds is sufficient? It seems like any time someone tries to suggest that maybe if we try raising the bar and giving people a helping hand (you know, by giving them access to *find* a job) that people start saying the world is going to end and all those people without jobs are just no-good lazy bums anyway. You know what makes me cynical? Not the people on welfare. It's the people who bitch about welfare and "entitlements".

  • by cbope (130292) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @01:31PM (#35810084)

    Here in Finland, internet access has been a right now for more than a year. I believe also some other countries in the EU have similar rights.

    Too many posts here are wrongly confusing a right with something you get for free. Just because it's a right, does not mean it costs you nothing. I have a legal right to be provided access to the internet. I do not expect to get such access for free. Just like access to clean water and electricity, these are also rights for which I have to pay to receive.

    What it means is that the government cannot take my internet access away or force me to be disconnected from the internet. I have a right as a citizen to have access to the internet and that cannot be taken away legally.

  • by lennier (44736) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 @05:56PM (#35812740) Homepage

    'It's possible to live without the Web. It's not possible to live without water."

    As someone who just lived through the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake of February 2011, I can attest that even if you don't have water, it's a whole lot easier to get some if you have the Web (in my case a Blackberry).

    Street water was off. The City Council had water trucks making deliveries and trucks of bottled water, but their location kept varying. They posted the schedule to the Web. If you didn't have timely information on where the trucks were going to be...

    It's possible to live without the Web, yes. But it's a whole lot easier to get your Maslow on with it.

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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