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 211.

    Anyone reading about the latest scandal unraveling in the US with the CIA/NSA accused of having hacked and deleted information from federal investigators computers? It's an amazing read, showing who really has the power in the USA. The agencies have "internal" investigations only, no oversight AT ALL, no elected politician has ANY control or influence over the reach and actions of these agencies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Emperor Wibble

    I see your post.. my response went into "moderation queue"

    What it basically said was that you enter into that contract voluntarily.

    You were sold when your parents registered your birth and debt accrued against your labour. When you accepted the title of Mr Wibble and your NI number you voluntarily agreed to their terms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Internet freedom and privacy is already dead, Sir Berners-Lee is well meaning but he is among the deluded who haven't realised this yet. There will be no turning it back because the people who run the countries will not relinquish power - your vote is irrelevent.

    One small example is the snoopers charter, which STILL isn't dead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    One of the first steps toward this is to let the public hold governments accountable for abusing the system. Persecuting whistle-blowers like Snowdon is a scary insight into the way these agencies will not tolerate having their faults scrutinized.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    To all those talking about liberty and conspiracy theories, snooping and big brother et al.

    Get over yourselves. Get a hobby. Get a life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    The way for oligarchs to control a society is into inject fear regularly, that society needs protecting from undesirable others who prose an alleged threat, hence society in general succumbs to this charade of fear and allow their freedoms and privacy to be heavily sacrificed by governments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    172. helious
    There is a difference in allowing a company to have details of movements, shopping habits etc which you don't have to agree to and all phone and message communications being used by governments and who knows what other organisations using your data for their own needs
    Google tells you what it is doing if you don't know it is your fault, but no one knows what governments need your data

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    Claiming power to regulation is claiming power to control. Government has no such right over our WWW, unless you give it to them.

    Indeed, current drag-net spying on us is already prohibited by the USA's Bill of Rights' 4th Amendment, and the government has run roughshod over it.

    The internet does not have, nor need, government oversight. It is a bastion of freedom from government, keep it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    My post can't be intercepted without a warrant authorised by the home secretary. The same should be true of my emails, texts, tweets, google searches... everything I do online.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    119.Nigel P

    My file is VERY BIG!!
    (btw i'm as british as they come, so they can't use the usual excuse about me being a homegrown terrorist.)

    They sent an armed response team to my house when I said something about a BIG FRIENDLY POLICEMAN.

    Twitter is for twits.
    Facebook is for face fools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    There's nothing more this World want more than an internet which is truly "Pay per Use". As far as big business is concerned, this is time waste, money down a drain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    It doesn't matter what laws are passed. National security organisations in every country will always operate outside any restraints and data protection laws are even ignored by insurance companies and salesmen.

    Again, you need to be savvy and expect anything you put out on the web will be seen and used and abused. No bunch of words on an act of any parliament will stop it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    The law should apply to everyone.
    Hacking is a crime that carries jail time.
    If a government does it, put the boss in jail. Ignorance is no defence, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I doubt the Americans will let control slip from their grubby little hands.
    With future developments they won't have a choice. Germany is pushing for an EU secure network avoiding the US entirely, companies are developing new encryption methods, states are rejecting US corporations' involvement in infrastructure. The NSA shot itself in the foot and no one trusts it. GCHQ to follow too

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.


    Well said.

    Marked down for pointing out about the TPP?

    The fluoride must be working well.

    The TPP is is the end of democracy and is being decided behind closed doors with no interest in the rights of you or I.

    It will mean that Monsanto can take our sovereign state to court if we decided to pass a law stating no GMOs on UK soil as it would affect their bottom line

    Mark that down..

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    If you have a microphone we can hear you, if you have a camera we can see you. You think there's something wrong with your phone because the battery runs down so quickly, no, that's us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Extraterrestrial @120

    Always the way, to date.

    But have a little faith in Providence or at least the possibilities of coherence, the favouring for survival of those with preference for peace and prosperity, ready if need be eventually to fight for that condemned 'utopia'

    Insight is not barred from any elite, all subject to relationship and to partnership, equality ever dawning

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    There is NO law saying you have to pay ... income tax
    TMA 1970
    ITEPA 2003
    ITTOIA 2005

  • Comment number 193.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    I'm bored/frustrated with the internet and use it less these days. It was great in the beginning. There's so much rubbish on there now. I'm concerned for my child being online too, they need protecting somehow, don't they?. And hey, there's a real world out there to explore!


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