University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change

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The rate at which Internet connectivity is spreading is matched only by the increasing amount of time people spend online. Today over 5 billion humans access the Internet; the overwhelming majority of them engage in social media, and almost all of them live out key aspects of their daily lives digitally. Human rights are universal in the sense that they apply to everyone, everywhere. And while there are indicators that they apply in cyberspace, how they apply is a different story.

Now, as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) turns 75, we wonder how many of those rights accompany us into our digital lives. This article develops a matrix mapping how human rights, which were developed for the physical world, might apply in the digital world. Using the 30 articles (rights) enumerated in the UDHR as a foil, the broad outline of a clearer picture emerges. Some governments or courts mandate certain rights to fully manifest in digital space, others are making progress, and still others remain static. Moreover, these rights can be enforced via either state regulation or corporate terms of service.

Designed as the first tool of its kind for attorneys, judges, policymakers, and advocates to chart which rights are accompanying us onto and into the Internet, this guide will be a foundational starting point for a much broader discussion to come.