Vince Cerf Says Internet Access is a Tool, Not a Right

Vincent Cerf, often cited as the father of the Internet, doesn’t think net access should be elevated to the level of a human right. It’s a hugely important component of life, he says, but even advanced tools should be seen as enablers as opposed to rights themselves. In a New York Times op-ed, he wrote:

The best way to characterize human rights is to identify the outcomes that we are trying to ensure. These include critical freedoms like freedom of speech and freedom of access to information — and those are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time. Indeed, even the United Nations report, which was widely hailed as declaring Internet access a human right, acknowledged that the Internet was valuable as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

That doesn’t let engineers off the hook of their more humanistic responsibilities, though. Cerf goes onto say they have a “tremendous obligation” to both empower users and ensure their online safety. “As we seek to advance the state of the art in technology and its use in society,” he writes, “we must be conscious of our civil responsibilities in addition to our engineering expertise.”

Comments

  1. BY Fred Bosick says:

    The engineers are *not* the problem. Bells Labs engineers happily gave away the UNIX source – which runs most of the backbone equipment of the Internet – long before Open Source was a concept. The problem is Media executives trying to monetize access and claim rights to intellectual property they had no hand in creating. The other problem is gullible governments only too happy to accede to these executives, and to install controls for their own purposes.

    Engineers and users are on the same side and should have first call on policy construction.

    We also must remember that Cerf is employed by ComCast, which has its own agenda.

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