What Would An Internet Bill Of Rights Look Like?

On March 12, 1989, British inventor Tim Berners-Lee filed the proposal for an “information management system” that would later become known as the World Wide Web. Now, on the Web’s 25th birthday, Berners-Lee is calling for something to be done about protecting users’ privacy rights on the Internet. 

In a statement released Wednesday, Berners-Lee posed the question, “How do we build a universal Web accessible to all regardless of physical or cognitive capabilities?”

See also: ReadWriteWeb Interview With Tim Berners-Lee, Part 1: Linked Data

“We need a global constitution—a bill of rights,” he told the Guardian, answering his own question. His vision is to create a “Magna Carta” for the Internet. 

Berners-Lee is working with the World Wide Web Consortium and the World Wide Web Foundation to outline exactly what this document would consist of. But so far, here are the rights that the inventor hopes to protect with an Internet Bill of Rights:

Universal Web Access

Berners-Lee isn’t the only person troubled by the fact that only one-third of the world has Internet access, and the adoption rate is growing by less than 9 percent. A Bill of Rights would list Web access as a human right, and outline ways to increase global adoption. 

In spite of many opportunities to cash out on his invention, Berners-Lee and his team have always ensured that everyone was able to use it for free. The majority of his work with the W3C has been to guarantee nothing tries to limit the Web’s original accessibility. 

Right To Privacy

“Who has the right to collect and use our personal data, for what purpose and under what rules?” Berners-Lee asks. The proposed bill would regulate which data gets stored and by whom. 

Berners-Lee has been an outspoken critic of both American and British government surveillance of citizens following whistleblower Edward Snowden’s uncovering activities within the National Security Agency. He has called Snowden “a really important part of the system” of his concept of what the Open Web should look like. 

Open Architecture

Berners-Lee hopes that by drafting an Internet Bill of Rights, citizens of the Web can conceptualize a way to ensure the Internet remains free, open, and high performance no matter how it’s being accessed. 

See also: The FCC Is Still Banging Its Head Against The Wall On Net Neutrality

One of the pioneering voices to favor net neutrality, Berners-Lee believes no Internet service provider or government should be allowed to differentiate Internet access by the way people connect to it, which platforms they use, or which content or sites they view. Providing open architecture for the Web would ensure that nobody could abuse this. 

Do you have your own ideas for what an Internet Bill of Rights should include? Submit your own draft to the Web We Want campaign, where Berners-Lee encourages Web users to try their hand at drafting the legislation they want to see. Feel free to contribute those same ideas to the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Photo by Silvio Tanaka

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