Inventer of WWW Wants Online Bill of Rights

As battles continue over net neutrality in the United States, the man who invented the world wide web is using the 25th anniversary of its debut to argue for an international online bill of rights to guarantee access to the internet without interference.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the Guardian the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the “open, neutral” system.

Speaking exactly 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the first proposal for what would become the world wide web, the computer scientist said: “We need a global constitution – a bill of rights.”

Berners-Lee’s Magna Carta plan is to be taken up as part of an initiative called “the web we want”, which calls on people to generate a digital bill of rights in each country – a statement of principles he hopes will be supported by public institutions, government officials and corporations.

“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. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”…

Principles of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity would be explored in the Magna Carta scheme. “These issues have crept up on us,” Berners-Lee said. “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.”

I approve of this idea very much. And I’m just old enough to remember the days before graphical browsers and the web, when we had things like Archie and Gopher servers.

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  • Just because Berners-Lee is right, just because he invented the thing, it doesn’t mean people are going to listen to him.

    “Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.”

    — Tim Berners-Lee in Technology Review, July 1996

    Nearly 20 years on, people are still ignoring his advice. Governments will do all they can to ignore him on the issue of rights and freedoms, something far more important.

  • colnago80

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet? I thought Al Gore Invented the internet. End snark.

  • Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”

    “We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.”

    — John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”

    A little idealistic perhaps, but still applicable nearly two decades later.

  • dingojack

    Minor quibble: “… the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.”

    So how did virtually every member of the American House get a copy of the Pentagon Papers, then? Must of been magic. @@

    Secondly – so who’ll decide? Individuals, countries, regions or the all-powerful American server community?

    Will they regulate what can and can’t be said (we wouldn’t want to offend religious or ethnic sensitivities now would we?)*

    How will it impact on local laws? If something is illegal in the US but perfectly legal here (or vice versa) can the Law of the Internet supersede local law?

    Who exactly is voting in these legislators, judges and regulators?

    Perhaps it’s a good idea, perhaps it’s not.



    * If a majority thinks completely shutting down sites that do X, is that perfectly OK?

  • matty1

    Dingo, Let’s be fair, all those issue already exist. Governments do try and regulate the internet and this does raise issues with different laws in different countries. See under China, great firewall of – or for something a little closer to you try this.

    In short what you describe is the status quo, Berners-Lee is calling for an improvement, he may be naive, he may be flat out wrong about the kind of web that would be best but he is not advocating more censorship.

  • colnago80

    “The turning point for the World Wide Web was the introduction[16] of the Mosaic web browser[17] in 1993, a graphical browser developed by a team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), led by Marc Andreessen. Funding for Mosaic came from the High-Performance Computing and Communications Initiative, a funding program initiated by then-Senator Al Gore’s High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991 also known as the Gore Bill.” —

    “Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Al Gore Among Internet Hall of Fame Inductees”

    Gore was in the first class inducted:


    Al Gore: Former U.S. vice president and senator who championed the funding and development of the Internet in Congress —,2817,2403414,00.asp

  • What the fuck is World War W?

  • Ichthyic

    what the fuck is an “inventer”?

  • Ichthyic

    Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the Internet? I thought Al Gore Invented the internet. End snark.

    egads you’re worthless.