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UN deems Internet access a basic human right

The UN Human Rights Council ruled that access to the Internet should be guaranteed by states.

Google Transparency Report 18 06 2012Enlarge
Google has reported a rise in the number of requests it received from governments to censor its search results, some of which it complied with and some of which it didn't. (Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images)

The United Nations has ruled that Internet access is a basic human right that should be guaranteed and protected by states.

The motion, which was passed on Thursday in Geneva, "affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice." 

The action was led by Sweden and supported by the General Assembly's 47 member countries, including America, Brazil and Tunisia, Digital Spy reported. The ruling comes in the wake of the Arab Spring, during which social media played a crucial role in organizing protesters and spreading the word. 

More from GlobalPost: The World's 7 worst Internet censorship offenders 

"This outcome is momentous for the Human Rights Council," said US ambassador Eileen Donahoe, Reuters reported. "It's the first ever UN resolution affirming that human rights in the digital realm must be protected and promoted to the same extent and with the same commitment as human rights in the physical world."

The Internet's role has grown exponentially in recent yearsm and will continue to grow: mobile data traffic alone is set to increase 15-fold in the next five years, according to the New York Times. With it's increased use, there is a greater focus on ensuring access to the world-wide web for everyone. 

"Beyond affirming that freedom of expression applies also to the Internet, the resolution also recognized the immense value the Internet has for global development and called on all states to facilitate and improve global access to it," wrote Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister, in a New York Times opinion piece

UN member states China and Cuba have both been criticized for their censorship of the Internet — in fact, China's selective blocking of webpages is no notorious it has come to be referred to as the Great Firewall of China, according to Reuters. 

More from GlobalPost: Google Transparency Report reveals 'alarming' rise in government censorship requests

In response to the resolution, Cuban diplomat Juan Antonio Quintanilla hinted that the US dominates control of the web, Reuters reported. 

"Only 30 percent of the world population currently has access to this form of technology," Quintanilla said. "Nor in the text is anything said about Internet governance. When we all know that this tool is controlled by a single country globally and this is something which hampers free access to this very important tool."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/politics/diplomacy/120706/un-deems-internet-access-basic-human-right-0