'Magna Carta' For The Internet Is Needed To Curb Government Spying And Retain Democracy, According To The Web's Founder
Some 25 years after the invention of the World Wide Web, its creator has come to a firm conclusion: We need a Magna Carta for the Internet. In other words, a foundational document to guide its independence, neutrality, and ethical use. Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web back in 1989, which was the foundation on which a digital revolution would emerge.
Berners-Lee is a vocal supporter of NSA leaker Edward Snowden — he called Snowden's leaks "profoundly in the public interest" — and urges both wariness and protest over state surveillance via the internet.
For Berners-Lee, this isn't a casual warning. He echoed these statements late last year, cautioning that the internet's inherently democratic nature was at risk due to "a growing tide of surveillance and censorship." To this end, he sees a solution through the creation of a guiding document, "a global constitution" to instill an online ethos of privacy and democracy:
These issues have crept up on us. 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.
Berners-Lee's plan will be part of an initiative called Web We Want, which asks users to sign their name to a mailing list and set about urging their respective government officials to draft laws, by country or region, which protect online privacy and neutrality.
The timing of his declaration, and the rollout of this anti-surveillance effort come on the heels of a highly-publicized, engrossing talk by Snowden, delivered at the SXSW conference Monday. Snowden also called for concerted action by the tech-savvy attendees of the Austin-based event, saying that both a "political response" and a "tech response" were needed to combat abuse of expanding surveillance (cough, NSA, cough.)
Snowden's talk, conducted through Google Hangouts and suffering from repeated lags and image freezing, wasn't as well received by everyone as it was by Berners-Lee. GOP Rep. Mike Pompeo urged SXSW to refuse to host the talk, calling Snowden a "traitor" and a "common criminal" whose "only apparent qualification is his willingness to steal from his own government and then flee to that beacon of First Amendment freedoms, the Russia of Vladimir Putin."
But Berners-Lee seems to view the independence of the Web as a global cause, with import beyond the simple policies of one government or another. Rather, he longs to see what he calls "a big communal decision."
Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments to do more and more and more control - more and more surveillance? Or are we going to set up a bunch of values? Are we going to set up something like a Magna Carta for the world wide web and say, actually, now it's so important, so much part of our lives, that it becomes on a level with human rights?