Human Rights Day commemorates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on December 10, 1948. This year, the UN has placed a spotlight on the rights of all people “to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making,” a theme particularly relevant to the Internet and the civic power derived from peoples’ abilities to communicate and interact using new media.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
It is remarkable that the authors of the UDHR had the foresight to protect this freedom regardless of medium – we know today just how relevant Article 19 is for the digital age. In the web 2.0 era, a right to “impart” information and ideas takes on new meaning, as social networking sites and blogging platforms support user-generated content and allow anyone with Internet access to disseminate ideas and opinions. Similarly, the rights to “seek” and “receive” information seem to anticipate search engines, Twitter feeds, and other Internet services.
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