Research Handbooks in International Law series
Edited by Nicholas Tsagourias and Russell Buchan
Chapter 5: Cyberspace and human rights
The Internet is the most consequential communications technology to emerge during the human rights era. The relationship between cyberspace and international human rights law is broad and intensive. Cyberspace challenges general principles of international law important for human rights, including rules sovereignty, non-intervention, and jurisdiction. The emergence of cyberspace also comprehensively affects the human rights regime, creating debates about whether Internet access is, or should be, a new human right. The cyberspace–human rights relationship also involves human rights controversies that developed as national and international policies on Internet governance and cybersecurity have evolved. The disclosures made by Edward Snowden agitate these controversies, especially as they involve the policies of the United States. The Snowden leaks suggest that, rather than being an exceptional technological phenomenon in human rights terms, cyberspace increasingly appears subject to the harsh international politics that have adversely affected human rights in the past. This trajectory means that the transformative human rights potential once associated with cyberspace will be difficult to recover.
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