The Internet Society views the Internet as an essential vehicle for promoting freedom of opinion and expression, including "freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Internet Society meeting in Dakar, Senegal, 25 October 2011, has announced that its Board of Trustees addressed human rights issues related to Internet access. The organization has been a long-time advocate of an open, global, and accessible Internet, and views the Internet as an enabler for the realization of a wide range of human rights.
The Internet Society Board noted that in 2011, in what has become known as the "Arab Spring", the Internet gave voice to people's aspirations. "The Internet played a vital role in generating awareness of and support for the efforts of those seeking to bring about change," said Raul Echeberria, Chairman of the Internet Society's Board of Trustees. "The Internet shaped a new generation who are connected to the world and who are global citizens, unconstrained by borders, time, and distance."
The IS Board also noted that the same technology that benefits billions of people throughout the world has also raised some challenges. Among them, it was observed that certain governments control their citizen's access and use of the global network in order to meet economic, security, or political objectives in an evolving policy landscape. For example, DNS blocking and filtering are among the measures used by some to block access to websites. Other measures used include surveillance technology or suspension of Internet access.
The Internet Society Board cautioned against resorting to technological shortcuts to achieve public policy objectives, as such actions can threaten the good functioning of the global Internet as a single, unified, and global communications network. While the Board recognized that governments have the responsibility to guarantee law and order for their citizens, it held the view that the right to freedom of expression should also be guaranteed.
"The Internet Society has always been focused on Internet freedom, which is the very embodiment of freedom of expression," added Echeberria. "These actions by some governments to limit access to the Internet are sometimes without due regard to the impact on an individual's ability to exercise their fundamental human rights, and include attempts to control social networks. This can be seen as an infringement of the right to peaceful assembly, as guaranteed by Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
"Limitations to the exercise of human rights should be the exception and not the rule, a principle which applies both to the online and offline world," stated Internet Society President and CEO Lynn St. Amour. "Any restrictions should respect due process and the provisions outlined in international human rights law, such as necessity and proportionality."
The open, decentralized, and global nature of the Internet provides a foundation for unprecedented growth in freedom of expression and access to information and knowledge. "The increasing pressure to limit access to the Internet has escalated the sense of urgency in addressing this situation,"
added St. Amour. "We will continue our efforts in this important policy area and work to bring attention to the impact of Internet freedom on other aspects of human rights."
The Internet Society focuses on Internet policy, technology standards, and future development. Based on its principled vision and substantial technological foundation, the Internet Society works with its members and Chapters around the world to promote the continued evolution and growth of the open Internet through dialogue among companies, governments, and other organizations around the world.