"The Web We Want" and Magna Carta for the Internet

Tim Berners-Lee
Inventor of the World Wide Web, Director of W3C

The World Wide Web just celebrated its 25th anniversary since the drafting of Tim Berners-Lee's proposal to combine hypertext with the internet. On that occasion, the inventor of the World Wide Web call for the creation of a global online "Magna Carta" to protect the rights of internet users around the world.

In 1989, Berners-Lee first put to paper his concept for what would eventually become the World Wide Web. Today, in these post-Snowden times, the British computer scientist is fighting to preserve the privacy rights of the system: "We need a global constitution - a bill of rights" to guarantee the internet remains an "open neutral" medium.

Berners-Lee told the Guardian that the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the "open, neutral" system the internet was meant to be in the first place.

The Web We Want

Building on Tim Berners-Lee's vision of global online protections, the World Wide Web Foundation, supported by leading non-governmental organizations from around the world, the Magna Carta plan is to be taken up as part of an initiative called "the web we want", which calls on people to generate a digital bill of rights in each country - a statement of principles he hopes will be supported by public institutions, government officials and corporations.

"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."

"The web web want" campaign aims to foster increased awareness of online digital rights. The campaign focuses on five principles: affordable access, the protection of personal user information, freedom of expression, open infrastructure, and neutral networks that do not discriminate against content or users.

The Unexpected Growth of the Internet

Forbes has released the richest people in the world from the last few years. 30 percent of these people came from IT industry and communication industry, and most are from the young generation. These people are the ones that grew up when the internet popularity exploded. And they are the ones that can see where it goes and create something beneficial to the world, and to themselves.

The world has been speaking to itself about how computers have grown to be smaller in size, changing lifestyle and how the economy moves in many parts of the world. Innovations, dedications, luck and environment, are what can be said to make this world democratic.

Technology evolve to aid humans. From communication to how other industries work, all depend heavily on technology to support its lifeline. But when it comes to the internet, many people don't care that privacy invasion matters as long as the service is free.

After the dotcom bubble burst, the internet has become a massive and popular place where businesses are running to make significant profit. web-based companies started to flourish: Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so forth, Former regime leaders that move within tech industry like IBM, Microsoft and Apple also cope with the growth. These are ones that populate the pages inside the media world wide. Not many people know that there are many engineers, scientists, and technologists that work silently in the background trying to figure out what is best for this technology people call the internet.

Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Linus Torvalds, Mark Weiser, Richard Stallman, and many others are the example of people that involve in the development of the internet, computers and communications, but they don't share the amount of space in the media's attention. These people prefer to work and dedicate themselves into the development of technology, and are more active in delivering open-source information campaigns. But these people are aware and concerned about the unexpected growth of the internet. The internet shouldn't just be protected from cyber criminals, but also from prying eyes of the government and corporate institutions.

The Open Web, Free from Privacy Concerns

Tim Berners-Lee has been an outspoken critic of the American NSA and British GCHQ spy agencies' surveillance of citizens following the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the light of what has emerged, he said, people were looking for an overhaul of how the security services were managed.

His views also went across the technology industry, where there is particular anger about the efforts by the NSA and GCHQ to undermine encryption and security tools - something many cybersecurity experts say has been counterproductive and undermined everyone’s security.

Principles of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity would be explored in the Magna Carta scheme. "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."

The web constitution proposal should also examine the impact of copyright laws and the cultural-societal issues around the ethics of technology.

While regional regulation and cultural sensitivities would vary, Berners-Lee said that he believed a shared document of principle could provide an international standard for the values of the open web.

He is optimistic that the "web we want" campaign can be mainstream, despite the apparent lack of awareness of public interest in the Snowden's story.

"I wouldn’t say people in the UK are apathetic - I would say that they have greater trust in their government than other countries. They have the attitude that we voted for them, so let them get on and do it."

"But we need our lawyers and our politicians to understand programming, to understand what can be done with a computer. We also need to revisit a lot of legal structure, copyright law - the laws that put people in jail which have been largely set up to protect the movie producers… None of this has been set up to preserve the day to day discourse between individuals and the day to day democracy that we need to run the country," he said.

Berners-Lee also spoke out strongly in favor of changing the controversial element of internet governance that would remove U.S. control. The U.S. has its grip that controls the dominant database of all domain names, but has faced increased pressure post-Snowden.

"The removal of the explicit link to the U.S. department of commerce is long overdue. The U.S. can't have a global place in the running of something which is so non-national. There is huge momentum towards that uncoupling but it is right that we keep a multistakeholder approach, and one where governments and companies are both kept at arm’s length."

Berners-Lee also stated several times about his concern that the web could be fragmented by countries or organizations carving up the digital space to work under their own rules, whether for censorship, regulation or commerce.

"We all have to play a role in that future," he said, citing resistance to proposed copyright theft regulation.

"The key thing is getting people to fight for the web and to see the harm that a fractured web would bring. Like any human system, the web needs policing and of course we need national laws, but we must not turn the network into a series of national silos."

Berners-Lee that also starred in the London 2012 Olympics, typing the words "this is for everyone" on a computer in the center of the arena, was stuck firmly to the principle of openness, inclusivity and democracy since he invented the web back in 1989, choosing not to commercialize his model. Rejecting the idea that government and commercial control of such a powerful medium was inevitable, Berners-Lee said it would be impossible: "Not until they prise the keyboards from our cold, dead fingers."