Web Magna Carta: WWW inventor calls for ‘online bill of rights’
He called for a revolutionary bill of rights to guaranty the web’s independence.
When he invented the nexus 25 years, ago, the British Berners-Lee dreamed of a neutral space where humanity, with all of its “ghastly stuff,” would be free to be itself. Now, however, he sees no choice but to institute a sort of Magna Carta for the online world – a document that would be modeled on the 13th-century English charter on basic rights and freedoms.
— Jeanette Clement (@clementgraphics) September 27, 2014
"If a company can control your access to the internet, if they can control which websites they go to, then they have tremendous control over your life," Berners-Lee spoke at London’s ‘Web We Want’ festival, which discussed the future of the internet and its guidelines.
"If a government can block you going to, for example, the opposition's political pages, then they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power."
"Suddenly the power to abuse the open internet has become so tempting both for government and big companies," he said.
Berners-Lee is active in his mission to counter that; the 59-year-old is the director of the World Wide Web Foundation, a lobbying body for the advancement of internet policy. A statement on their website explains that “governments — totalitarian and democratic alike — are increasingly monitoring and controlling people’s online communication. Wireless internet providers are being tempted to slow down traffic on sites with which they have not made deals."
"Closed content silos are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the web. High costs and lack of locally relevant content, especially in the developing world, still exclude the majority of the world's people from the web's global conversation."
“If we, the web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the web could be broken into fragmented islands and its transformative potential frittered away,” he said.
Last year, Berners-Lee’s work was recognized by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. It was then that he also elaborated on the scandalous facts of global internet surveillance leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
"The original design of the web of 24 years ago was for a universal space, we didn't have a particular computer in mind or browser, or language… When you make something universal … it can be used for good things or nasty things … we just have to make sure it's not undercut by any large companies or governments trying to use it and get total control,” he said, when asked to comment on Snowden.
The world tried, with varying degrees of success, to mitigate the damage caused by power-hungry surveillance initiatives. One ruling by the EU resulted in Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ policy, which allows users to remove links with information about themselves. But like other initiatives, there are fears of abuse and privacy infringement and censorship.
— WebWeWant (@webwewant) September 27, 2014
"There have been lots of times that it has been abused, so now the Magna Carta is about saying...I want a web where I'm not spied on, where there's no censorship," Berners-Lee said at the festival.
According to his comment, the only information that should be kept off the web relates to things that were illegal before the web, and remain illegal now – such as “child pornography, fraud, telling someone how to rob a bank,” and the like.