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Human Rights 6 September 2017

Libraries Stand for the Internet’s Future and Join the Call to End Shutdowns

By Nicolas SeidlerFormer Senior Policy Advisor

Human development cannot happen without inclusive access to information.

This, along with reading and applying knowledge helps us to make better decisions and to create and innovate.

The Internet has brought this much closer. It is easier to create, communicate, and collaborate than ever before. E-commerce has given us new markets, e-journals are allowing us to learn, and e-health is keeping us fit.

Libraries have seized the opportunity not only to promote online access to information, but to help their users get the best out of the Internet. The welcoming environment and targeted support that they offer is almost as important as the resources to which they provide access. Libraries are also key to improving levels of digital literacy.

Internet access is a prerequisite for achieving this mission. With information providers from the United Nations to local newspapers cutting back on physical printing, the possibility to get online is more essential than ever. Where connections are unreliable, or do not exist, people may even be in a worse position than before. Because of this, all 196 of the UN’s Member States endorsed giving everyone the possibility of Internet access in the 2030 Agenda.

It is therefore unacceptable that governments should use Internet shutdowns as a policy tool in any but the most exceptional circumstances. The collateral damage is simply too high.

  • For every student who is prevented from cheating, how many are prevented from studying?
  • For every misleading news story blocked, how many health websites are made unavailable?
  • For every protest disrupted, how many families and friends are unable to communicate?

And for every illicit business model shut down, how many startups and future investors will give up or move elsewhere?

On behalf of library users, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institution’s (IFLA) Statement on Internet Shutdowns calls on governments to reject Internet shutdowns in all but the most extreme situations. They are not only an attack on the work of libraries, but also on the principles they defend – free access to information and free expression. These principles are key foundations of trust in the Internet, enabling people to fully harness the benefits of the web for society, as echoed in the Internet Society’s own statement against Internet shutdowns.

Join us and the Internet Society in the call to shape tomorrow by keeping the Internet on.

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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