Sir Tim Berners-Lee: World wide web needs bill of rights


Sir Tim Berners-Lee wants more rights for users of the web

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The inventor of the world wide web has marked the 25th anniversary of his creation by calling for a 'Magna Carta' bill of rights to protect its users.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee told BBC Breakfast the issue could be compared to the importance of human rights.

He has been an outspoken critic of government surveillance following a series of leaks from ex-US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Sir Tim called on people to take action and protest against surveillance.

'Communal decision'

He told BBC Breakfast the online community has now reached a crossroads.

"It's time for us to make a big communal decision," he said. "In front of us are two roads - which way are we going to go?

"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?"

A 1992 copy of the world's first web page Looking at the world's first web page shows how much has changed online
The NeXT cube, the original machine on which Sir Tim Berners-Lee designed the world wide web The NeXT cube machine on which Sir Tim designed the world wide web
Sir Tim Berners-Lee Sir Tim took part in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games

Sir Tim said the internet should be a "neutral" medium that can be used without feeling "somebody's looking over our shoulder".

He called for vigilance against surveillance by its users, adding: "The people of the world have to be constantly aware, constantly looking out for it - constantly making sure through action, protest, that it doesn't happen."

Sir Tim has previously warned that surveillance could threaten the democratic nature of the web.

He has also spoken out in support of Mr Snowden, saying his actions were "in the public interest".

Browser favourites

  • The BBC website and Facebook are the UK's most popular sites, according to a survey of 2,001 adults
  • The poll for internet registry firm Nominet, found 24% of people chose Facebook as their favourite website
  • The BBC was second, with 20% choosing the site
  • Amazon was third with 9%
  • Gmail and Yahoo were both chosen by 5% of those polled

Source: Nominet

The idea that the world wide web would end up playing such a huge role in people's lives would have seemed "crazy" 25 years ago, said Sir Tim.

He admitted that the web represented "humanity connected", involving both the "wonderful" and the "ghastly".

But he added: "I don't have a lot of sympathy with people who say: 'There's so much rubbish on the web.'

"Well, if there's so much rubbish, if it's rubbish, don't read it. Go read something else."

The web we want campaign has been set up by Sir Tim's World Wide Web Foundation to coincide with the 25th anniversary and aims to protect human rights online.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I can say what I want on the net you cant stoppppppppppppppppp meeeeeeeeeeeeee aggggggghhhh,sorry mi5 cia just burst in lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    King John signed the Magna Carta under duress. What real pressure is Sir Tim and his army of cellar dwelling dweebs going to apply to the governments of the world? We have a disarmed populace, thanks to lazy thinking about firearms, and a heavily armed government security apparatus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    The problem with something like the Magna Carta is that it is totally unenforceable...Like our Magna Carta, the base constitution of the UK for over 800 years, provided protection to the people, no government of parliament could alter it, demote the validity of it, sign away powers and sovereignty or erode any of the rights it contained, The UK government did by illegally signing up to the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    All major powers are crunching communications data. It's not people reading this stuff. It's vast processing facilities. Humans do the programming & set the security triggers, but rarely come into contact with raw data. If you have nothing to hide, you may suffer some inconvenience -a friend of mine was stopped repeatedly by security services- but the alternative is more terrorism & crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I wish this one hit wonder would just go away. Oh, and he wasn't the sole inventor of the www. He just took all the credit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Let's not forget that the biggest internet/mobile phone hackers of information are criminal gangs, human rights campaigners and the press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    I like government surveillance of the internet. I never do anything illegal, and don't really care if the government sees what I do on it.

    Their watchfulness makes me feel safer, and could stop terrorist attacks/criminal activity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Just because you invent something, it does not mean you have the power to decide how it should be regulated. We need more surveillance, not less. We need to reverse the trend where people can say what they like on the internet with no consequence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    WE have not rights . The government is sneaky and always will be so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Hahahahahahahahahah nice one sir Tim, write another musical, you've got more chance of success.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Two things that scare the political elite everywhere are a) democracy: the freedom to choose for oneself, and b) knowledge: to help in the informed choosing for oneself

    The internet is a threat to governments because it allows both of these, so don't hold your breath hoping they release their grip

  • Comment number 100.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    The internet definitely needs a bill of rights. Too many times I hear the naive brainlessly echo 'If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear'. The problem is something that you don't want to hide now, say a religious or political belief, might be extremely dangerous in the future - Imagine how the Nazis would have used internet surveillance had the technology been around then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    What governments are doing now is just the start.They are woefully naive in their approach.

    Governments track 10+ times what Google($400billion) & Facebook ($180bn) do with inadequate security.

    Spam & scams have been criminalised,

    The biggest threat within 10years will be sophisticated financial scams - based on valuable NSA/GCHQ etc databases Govts are building for criminals and terrorists

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Great thought Tim (as always), shame about the reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    This needs to be a global Magna carta and not just a web-based one. Everyone should have the right to TOTAL privacy if they choose: not just from surveillance, but from media, advertising, sales, religious groups and politicians.

    As we have seen in recent years, there also need to also be safeguards to stop countries simply enacting laws to circumvent this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I sent my book to Tim and perhaps this is where he got his thinking. It could also explain many of the queries you are now raising

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Out of 40M web users, you could only find 2,001 to ask for ratings? This is worse than your BARB claims, pull the other one, BBC LOL

    "The BBC website and Facebook are the UK's most popular sites, according to a survey of 2,001 adults"

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Perhaps if the NSA & GCHQ weren't so damn busy reading junk mail about $10m that someone from Nigeria would like to give to me, Viagra pills, or online casinos, they might have spotted a plane went missing in Malyasia a few days ago !

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    This needed to be said and it comes from a well respected man.
    Thanks to Snowden too for showing us why.

    In order to extract control from the Americans we can't work alone, this is one occasion where Europe acting as a whole would be an major advantage.


Page 22 of 27


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