A recent United Nations report declares that, beyond certain circumstances such as cyber attacks, disconnecting people from the Internet is a human rights violation. This comes in response to governments who have cut off Internet access to its citizens during times of social unrest (as in Egypt and Syria) or as punishment for violating copyright laws (as in France and the UK).
There should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information via the Internet, except in few, exceptional, and limited circumstances prescribed by international human rights law
In many instances, states restrict, control, manipulate and censor content disseminated via the Internet without any legal basis, or on the basis of broad and ambiguous laws, without justifying the purpose of such actions. … such actions are clearly incompatible with states’ obligations under international human rights law, and often create a broader ‘chilling effect’ on the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, states have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The full report can be found here.