With the emerging of the Internet, that has been around for quite some time now, a need for the new form of rights has emerged as well. The internet kept growing and developing, and its users needed a decent form of protection of their rights while online. Considering that basic human rights did not cover this need properly, digital rights needed to be invented.
Basic concepts and principles of digital rights and digital freedom
The term digital rights include human rights that would allow Internet users to access, create, use, as well as freely publish digital media. This, of course, also includes the right to access and use electronic devices like computers, as well as entire communication networks.
Already existing rights like freedom of expression and the right to individual privacy were also included but in a completely new context. Finally, in the spirit of the modern age, the right to Internet access has also been recognized and listed as a basic human right by multiple countries’ law.
Digital freedom, therefore, includes the rights to have universal access to technology and information, as well as the aforementioned right to privacy, but also freedom of expression, opinion, and the right to innovation, creativity, as well as development.
Some countries, like Egypt, have also included several other relevant factors that would directly influence these rights. those are things like the quality of communication services, their sustainability, and the cost of accessing them in the first place.
In fact, their paper on the issue includes digital privacy, as well as threats to the privacy of the citizens of this country, even when that threat comes from the government itself, or alternatively, from service providers, or malicious software.
Additionally, the paper also talks about the freedom of expression. This includes the use of the internet and online media as tools that would allow users to access platforms where they could express their thoughts and opinions openly. Freedom of expression includes media institutions, groups, journalists, as well as individual users.
Online protection soon became a necessity
As mentioned earlier, the basic human rights, including digital freedom, have been recognized as relevant when it comes to the internet. Some of the other rights that are also included in the concept of digital freedom include the right to education, consumer rights, multilingualism, and alike.
In order to provide these rights, the internet had to receive a new characterization as a public good on a global scale. As such, it must be accessible to everyone, and the rights of others need to be recognized and respected. This has also brought in the necessity to include rules that would allow or deny certain actions, in accordance with the offline laws. What this means is that, basically, what the law doesn’t allow outside of the internet, should not, and will not be tolerated online either.
Additionally, according to the Jesuit journal, there is a possibility of the abuse of freedom of expression. This abuse may come from individuals, as well as companies. Not only that, but there is a large potential of exploitation of computer and internet users for financial gain, not to mention repressive regimes that would hide or block information from the users. In order to combat these issues, a Charter of Human Rights for the Internet had to be organized.
The fact is that these rights need to be regularly checked and updated with the continuous development of the internet. This necessity was seen best during the seizure of Megaupload by the US government several years ago. Back then, the government argued that property rights were lost if the users choose to store their data on a cloud computing service, which earned them a lot of criticism by the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation).
The positive thing is that more and more countries have recognized the need to include various digital rights and freedoms, and a lot of progress has been made on this field in the last two decades. Most of this has included efforts to ensure that access to the internet, electronic devices, and alike becomes broadly available to everyone. On the other hand, there was also the need to prevent some restrictions that were deemed unreasonable.
After multiple right charter suggestions, world summits regarding the internet and digital freedoms, Bills of Rights, and alike, the opinion of the public was asked as well. The Internet Society conducted an entire series of online interviews in over 20 countries, which included more than 10,000 users. The users were asked on their opinions on various issues regarding digital rights, like whether the access to the Internet should be considered a basic human right, and whether or not the user believe that the internet can help society.
The results of the study have shown that many believe that the internet is, in fact, a positive force in the world and that it should be decentralized, free, and protective of their users, just as the law protects them in the ‘real world‘.