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Tim Berners-Lee: We need a Magna Carta for the internet

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

21 March 2014

Last week, inventor of the world wide web and former CERN scientist Tim Berners-Lee took the opportunity to talk about the state of the internet on the 25th anniversary of his world-changing proposal for the web.

Since the creation of the web, Berners-Lee has been active in and passionate about keeping the internet neutral and fair, an issue that’s been pushed to the forefront of public consciousness since a federal court shot down the FCC’s Open Internet rules some months ago.

But Berners-Lee thinks that a set of guidelines isn’t enough to keep the internet open and available to everyone. In fact, he believes that a neutral internet is necessary to ensure that democracy and human rights are kept safe in a world where web censorship is a common tool of the ruling governments. In conversation with the Guardian, he stated: “We need a global constitution – a bill of rights.”

“Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”

“These issues have crept up on us,” Berners-Lee said. “Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. So I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years.”

Thankfully, a group of people are doing just that.

The Web We Want is an initiative based on the idea that Berners-Lee himself proposed. This consortium of human rights-minded individuals, organized by Berners-Lee’s own World Wide Web Foundation, aims to build global support and recognition for a free, open and secure internet for all people across the globe. As well as giving grants to those who need them, the Web We Want campaign asks people to submit the “bill of rights” that they want to see implemented for the web.

The idea of the internet as a human rights issue is one that’s been growing over the last few years, and viewing it in this light will inevitably lead to a greater awareness of the web’s impact upon the lives of the people that use it. Whether or not the desired Bill of Rights will come to fruition still remains to be seen, but with such distinguished figures as Berners-Lee heading the global push for an open internet, you can be sure that the fight won’t cease. 

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