(Photo by Rick Barry/Broken Shade Photo, republished under Creative Commons license, BY 2.0)

(Photo by Rick Barry/Broken Shade Photo, republished under Creative Commons license, BY 2.0)

In recent years, the discussion of fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens is no longer the exclusive domain of the real plane, it has also become a key subjet in the virtual world. Which rights and freedoms must be protected on the Internet? For whom? What does this mean?

Many agree that the rights protected offline must be the same that are protected online. I concur with this position. Internet is a privileged space for the enjoyment and exercise of human rights, so not only States but civil society, academia, the private sector and all voices should join to preserve, promote and guarantee the Internet of rights.

Internet should be open, freely accessible, neutral and affordable for everyone. According to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, there are some basic principles to be followed to ensure that this premise is met:

1) Universal access: States should promote and ensure access of all people to the Internet, which means having adequate onfraestructura for this purpose and expand coverage. Likewise, they should provide and promote digital education for all citizens.
In this regard, States need to take progressive steps to achieve unrestricted Internet access, that is universal access.

2) Nondiscrimination: Cultural, racial, socioeconomic, gender, religion, language, legal status, among others differences, should not be a barrier to access Internet.

3) Pluralism: States should make sure that more voices, opinions, ideas, information are transmited  and shared, never less. Internet allows more voices to express themselves in the public space and enables a full exercise of political and social rights.

4) Privacy: There need to be rules and guarantees to ensure that the information and private data of people accessing the Internet are protected against unauthorized interference, nonconsensual or arbitrary break ins. Privacy is a fundamental right that must be protected and musn’t unjustifiably invoked other rights such as security, to flout. States should seek a balance between privacy and security, and to use the least restrictive mechanism where necessary.

5) Net neutrality: This principle establish that all codes, information and services circulating on the Internet should be treated the same way. In this sense, it shouldn’t be provided special treatment for certain pages or videos to load faster providers, it shoudn’t exist filters or content blocking. Only in exceptional cases and impartially determined by a judge may establish certain measures to filter and block content and when the situation disproportionately affects other rights. Likewise, intermediaries shouldn’t  be imposed to supervice content or are held accountable for the information shared by others.

As you can see, the Internet is a free space but regulated by certain principles that allow all of us enjoy our freedoms and rights. Free and open Internet promotes creativity, entrepreneurship, connectivity and economic development. However, there are challenges for Internet in many parts of the world, such as censorship, surveillance, and access barriers. Therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility to promote Internet governance based on human rights and  multi stakeholderism, where all voices are heard and all the implications are informed.

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