The United Nations voted on Friday to extend human rights to the internet, despite frantic last-minute lobbying by diplomats representing Russia and China.
The vote theoretically extends human rights enjoyed offline to the internet. But China and Russia opposed the vote, primarily on the grounds of the resolution's call for an open and accessible internet, and to uphold people's rights to freedom of expression.
Diplomats from China and Russia tabled four amendments in order to remove passages to ensure citizens' access to the internet, and references to freedom of speech.
Countries that lined up to support the amendments included the usual autocracies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but also democracies India, Kenya and South Africa, which could have been expected to support the UN's aims.
However, these amendments were rejected and the resolution passed.
The Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet (PDF) motion asserted "the need for human rights to underpin internet governance and that rights that people have offline must also be protected online".
It continued: "The exercise of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression, on the internet is an issue of increasing interest and importance as the rapid pace of technological development enables individuals all over the world to use new information and communication technologies."
The motion also called for governments to support online privacy as a fundamental right, and to allow citizens "to hold opinions without interference and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association".
The resolution, which was promoted by pressure group Article 19, comes as governments across the world ratchet up their control of, and surveillance over, the internet.
The UK, for example, will shortly pass the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will require internet service providers to maintain records of citizens' internet use that police and other government authorities will be able to access.
Russia, meanwhile, has recently passed draconian laws that could see bloggers jailed for expressing opinions online. The new law requires bloggers to register with the government, enabling the authorities to track dissenting voices.
Russian president Vladimir Putin described the internet earlier this year as "a special CIA project" that justified his government's crackdown on internet freedoms.
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