Yes, Vinton, There is a Human Right to the Internet

11 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2012

Date Written: September 2, 2012


A recent United Nations report asserts that states have an obligation “to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all….” I defend this claim against critics, such as Vinton Cerf (one of the founders of the Internet) who has argued that “technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.” I argue that the right to the Internet derives from the right to communicate. Using James Nickel’s account of relations of support between rights, I show that the right to communicate provides essential support for all other human rights. I argue that, given this linchpin role of the right to communicate and the increasing importance of the Internet as a means of communication, states have both a negative duty to refrain from restricting citizens’ freedom to communicate on-line and a positive duty to see to it that citizens have access to Internet technology.

Keywords: human rights, Internet, access to information, right to communicate, state obligations

Suggested Citation

Mathiesen, Kay, Yes, Vinton, There is a Human Right to the Internet (September 2, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Kay Mathiesen (Contact Author)

Kay Mathiesen ( email )

Boston, MA
United States

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