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Russia, China fight UN effort to extend human rights onto the internet

Vote at Human Rights Council to take place Friday

Russia and China are fighting an effort at the United Nations (UN) to extend human rights to the internet.

The resolution was due to be voted on at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) on Thursday, but the vote was put off until Friday amid growing tensions and a spotlight put on the vote by a campaign of over 80 organizations, including Amnesty International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the W3C and Reporters Without Borders.

The resolution [PDF] follows a gradual movement in the UN to recognize that the online and offline worlds are no longer separate entities but feed into one another. So rights granted in the offline world should also be protected online.

The problem, from China's and Russia's perspective, is that it includes new elements that stress the need for an accessible and open internet, and condemns violations against people for expressing their views online. Both countries have become renowned for censoring the internet and for taking action against those who are critical of their regimes on the internet.

In response, four amendments to the draft resolution have been put down whose main impacts would be to remove the text on freedom of expression and the condemnation of shutting down internet access to citizens in response to events.

The resolution, which was written by a number of countries including Brazil, Nigeria, Turkey and the USA, also includes recommendations to strengthen anonymity and encryption. ®

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