Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Political Science

Advisor

George Andreopoulos

Committee Members

Stephen Brier

Matthew Gold

Subject Categories

International Relations

Keywords

norms, Internet freedom, human rights and technology

Abstract

This dissertation explores how demands for Internet access have taken shape in the international system and to what degree a right to access or the Freedom to Connect (F2C) can be said to exist. It also studies how states have responded to demands rel­ated to access and Internet penetration. A review of the literature reveals that most work concentrates on violations of users’ rights on the Web and bypasses questions about whether and how users can access this vital piece of technology. Utilizing discourse analysis, the study shows that the F2C is being framed by a diverse range of actors using traditional international platforms and through transnational means that include the medium itself. Nine case studies are conducted to gauge states’ reactions to demands for increased Internet penetration and meaningful access. It demonstrates that a state’s political culture and its preexisting relationship with human rights are the greatest predictors of what steps governments take in relationship to a right to access. Liberal states are quick to view access as either a right in itself or as enabler of other rights like expression and political participation, while illiberal states claim their sovereignty extends into cyberspace as a necessary exception to human rights. This dissertation investigates how access is related to larger issues of Internet freedom like monitoring and censorship. It also addresses how international relations theory can apply to questions about states’ relationships to information and communications technologies. Finally, it will help us understand how human rights are understood on the Web and how normative discourse and development are carried out on the Internet.

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