The United Nations officially condemned the practice of countries shutting down access to the internet at a meeting of the Human Rights Council on Friday.
A resolution [PDF] entitled The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet effectively extends human rights held offline to the internet. It was passed by consensus, but only after a determined effort by a number of countries, including China and Russia, to pull out key parts of the text.
A non-binding resolution passed Friday morning by the UNHRC’s 47 member-states calls for the international community to reject efforts aimed at blocking internet access, and reaffirms previous resolutions that state “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression.”
In particular, a number of states – notable by their authoritarian stances – were opposed to the resolution’s focus on the need for an accessible and open internet, and its condemnation of violations against people for expressing their views online. A vote planned for Thursday was delayed to Friday after the issue became heated.
Four amendments pulling out that language were tabled, but none were adopted after an impassioned debate.
Some were surprised by the 13 other countries that lined up with Russia and China in an effort to delete the text on ensuring access to the internet. Among such authoritarian regimes as Saudi Arabia and Qatar were also democracies including India and South Africa reports TheRegister
At least 15 internet shutdowns occurred during 2015, and Algerian authorities’ decision last month to temporarily block access to social media services including Twitter and Facebook over allegations of academic cheating helped the number of shutdowns so far this year climb to 20, according to Access Now, a digital rights group that applauded the passage of the resolution Friday.