“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.”
— Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, tells the Guardian he’s calling for a Magna Carta, a bill of rights, for the Web. Berners-Lee — who wrote the proposal for what would become the “www” of the Internet 25 years ago — says governments and corporate interests threaten the “open, neutral” nature of the Web.
You may say he’s a downer, but he’s not the only one. As we wrote yesterday, tech experts, observers and academics express similar concerns, including possible censorship and oppression that could come from government abuse of information that’s available online and through other electronic means. Neutrality issues stem from the control that corporations wield over access to Internet connections and online content.
“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,” Berners-Lee told the Guardian.
His call for an online bill of rights is part of a new initiative called “the Web we want,” which among other things is calling on the drafting of a bill of rights for every country and proposing them to governments. Among the online principles the movement identifies as important: privacy, freedom of expression, affordability of access, and neutrality of networks.
But back to taking things for granted — the main Berners-Lee quote above says people have come to get used to assault on our rights in the Internet age. Is it any wonder? Michelle Quinn writes that we’ve come to take for granted the World Wide Web itself, because it is now so entrenched in our lives: “Tech anniversaries are also a reminder to take note of how our own expectations have changed.” For better or for worse.
Photo: Tim Berners-Lee, who’s known as the father of the World Wide Web, in 1999. (Gary Reyes/Mercury News archives)