Is Internet Access a Human Right? For Everyone or Just Persons with Disabilities?
Kritisk Juss Vol 40, No 1, 26-51
20 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 21, 2015
Allegations that Internet access is a human right is a popular perception, reflected in media reports. The most explicit basis is found in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Acknowledging that private actors are essential in providing Internet services, the CRPD Article 21(c) explicitly urges them to provide information and services in accessible and usable formats. It is not common that human rights treaties specify the role of private actors with such explicit wording. A review of relevant international law sources, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), finds that there is no basis in international law for stating that Internet access is a human rights. On the other hand, rights and obligations on Internet access and accessibility is clearly outlined in the CRPD, finding that there is a human right to the Internet – with corresponding State obligation – for persons with disabilities. The article then identifies States’ compliance with its CRPD obligations in the realm of Internet, and finds severe weaknesses in public policies, but the adoption of a treaty on copyright exceptions applying to use by persons with disabilities is a positive recent development.
Keywords: Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, International Telecommunications Union, right to enjoy the benefit of scientific progress, universal access, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
JEL Classification: K33, O34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation