VIDEO: Man who invented World Wide Web has plan to take it back

Sir Tim Berners-Lee releases a bill of rights to combat online misinformation

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee released an ambitious rule book for online governance — a bill of rights and obligations for the internet — designed to counteract the growing prevalence of such anti-democratic poisons as misinformation, mass surveillance and censorship.

The product of a year’s work by the World Wide Web Foundation where Berners-Lee is a founding director, the “ Contract for the Web ” seeks commitments from governments and industry to make and keep knowledge freely available — a digital policy agenda true to the design vision of the 30-year-old web.

The contract is non-binding, however. And funders and partners in the endeavour include Google and Facebook, whose data-collecting business models and sensation-rewarding algorithms have been blamed for exacerbating online toxicity.

“We haven’t had a fairly complex, fairly complete plan of action for the web going forward,” Berners-Lee said in an interview. “This is the first time we’ve had a rule book in which responsibility is being shared.”

For instance, the contract proposes a framework for protecting online privacy and personal data with clearly defined national laws that give individuals greater control over the data collected about them. Independent, well-resourced regulators would offer the public effective means for redress. Current laws and institutions don’t measure up to that standard.

Amnesty International just released a report charging that Google and Facebook’s business models are predicated on the abuse of human rights.

Berners-Lee nevertheless says that “having them in the room is really important.” He said both companies had approached the foundation seeking participation.

“We feel that companies and governments deserve equal seats at the table and understanding where they’re coming from is equally valuable,” he said. “To have this conversation around a table without the tech companies, it just wouldn’t have the clout and we wouldn’t have ended up with the insights.”

The non-profit foundation’s top donors include the Swedish, Canadian and U.S. governments and the Ford and Omidyar foundations.

One of its biggest challenges is the growing balkanization of the internet, with national governments led by China, Russia and Iran exerting increasing technical control over their domestic networks, tightening censorship and surveillance.

“The trend for balkanization is really worrying and it’s extreme at the moment in Iran,” said Berners-Lee. A strong government exhibits tolerance, the computer scientist added, for “other voices, opposition voices, foreign voices to be heard by its citizens.”

READ MORE: U.S. group says misinformation on the rise on Facebook

So how to prevent governments from restricting internet access at their borders?

One approach, said Berners-Lee, could be financial pressure. Multinational lenders could condition lower interest rates, for example, on a nation’s willingness to let information flow freely on its domestic network.

Frank Bajak, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Police investigate July 2 homicide in Houston

Man succumbed to injuries at Pearson Road residence

Homicide investigation underway in Prince George

A 26-year-old woman has died as a result of stabbing.

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Police search for Good Samaritans who intervened an assault

Fort St. James RCMP said the incident occured on June 14.

Fire burns down outbuildings and vehicle in Nak’azdli

No injuries were sustained by occupants or firefighters.

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

Collision results in train derailment just east of Golden

The derailment occurred Sunday night, according to a statement from CP

Lower Mainland woman says llama farming neighbour shot her 11-month-old pup

Young dog was on owner’s Maple Ridge property when it was killed on June 21

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

B.C. highway widening job reduced, costs still up $61 million

Union-only project scales back work to widen Trans-Canada

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Most Read