The right not to access the Internet

  • Dariusz Kloza (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


Ten years ago, Paul De Hert and I took part in – back then – a vivid debate whether access to the Internet should be made a fundamental right. In our article (2012), from a liberal viewpoint, we argued in favour of such a new right as we saw it could contribute to appropriately addressing some political and social concerns, such as censorship or digital divide, despite some drawbacks such as increased criminality. We saw such a standalone right necessary as the existing international fundamental rights law, despite its richness and plasticity (for example, positive obligations or human rights as ‘living instruments’), was insufficient to appropriately protect individuals and their interests in that context. In other words, back then, we positioned that giving an option to access the Internet was an inherently good thing, meriting protection at the highest legal level.

Ten years later, however, as society develops, access to the Internet – and, more broadly, the use of new and emerging technologies – have frequently ceased to be merely an option, a (fundamental) right. Rather, it has become more and more a (de facto) obligation. These days, for example, cash payments are often discouraged (recently, also in the name of public health) or life without a mobile phone has become unduly burdensome. Such developments beg many questions and some of them include whether people could be legally obliged to use a given technology, and whether such an obligation conforms to the principles of democracy, the rule of law (Rechtsstaat) and human rights.

Hence, in this exploratory contribution, I will look at whether, how and to what extent international human rights law protects individuals against an obligation to use new and emerging technologies. As specific rights of that genre, at various levels, are not new (for example, the so-called right to be forgotten, known from personal data protection law), perhaps, to counterbalance, there should also be a (fundamental) right not to access the Internet.
Period9 Jul 2021
Event titleDigital Rights 2.0: A Decade of Transformations for the Rule of Law
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionInternational