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UN report: Internet access is a basic human right

Access to the Internet, especially during times of political unrest, is a basic human right, says a report released by the United Nations today.

"Facilitating access to the Internet for all individuals, with as little restriction to online content as possible, should be a priority for all States," says the report, published on May 16 by Frank La Rue, a "special rapporteur" for the UN's Human Rights Council.

"... The unique features of the Internet, which allow individuals to spread information instantly, to organize themselves, and to inform the world about situations of injustice and inequality, have also created fear among Governments and the powerful," La Rue said in a press release.

The report urges states to avoid or amend any laws that "permit users to be disconnected from Internet access."

Wired's Threat Level, which was first to point out the report, said that La Rue was also "alarmed" by recent decisions by the UK and France to allow unplugging illegal file sharers.

The UN report defines Internet access to include both free information flow as well as access to infrastructure, "such as cables, modems, computers and software, to access the Internet in the first place."

In the recent past, governments have restricted access to the Internet as they got wind of uprisings. Earlier today, after escalating conflict in the country, large parts of Syria lost access to the Internet. Egypt's goverment similarly blocked access to the Internet in the early days of its spring revolution, and Bahrain's connection slowed as demonstrations got underway there.

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Nidhi Subbaraman is the technology and science intern at Connect with Technolog on Facebook, and find Nidhi on Twitter.