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

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert and Port Hardy brace for heavy winds

Gusts ready to hit the communities at 120 km/h as Wednesday evening falls

North Island Seniors Housing Foundation is progressing towards its goals

“The membership of the Foundation reflects the multicultural demographics of the North Island”

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles dominate round robin playoff games on home ice

“The guys knew this was a big game and we came ready to compete”

Ninth annual Victor’s Secret Fashion Show raises $11,690 for North Island cancer patients

“I am overwhelmed, that in tough times, you still pull through to help this event”

LETTER: Loaves and Fishes competing with Harvest Food Bank?

“Is this a political move by Food Banks BC to increase its profile”

VIDEO: Feds look to help 126 Canadians quarantined in China for coronavirus

China has confirmed more than 4,500 cases of the new virus, with more than 100 deaths

Off-duty Nanaimo Mountie takes down would-be ice cream thief

Suspect attempted to steal Dilly Bars from Dairy Queen location on Sunday

Sap thief taps Saanich park maple trees, faces hefty fine

One tree found with four taps in Mount Doug Park

Nanaimo man hit with pole in dispute over off-leash dog

RCMP say no charges recommended at this time

Was there a tornado on Vancouver Island Monday?

Suspected phone app glitch gives eerie warning

Work has started on Malahat Skywalk, expected completion in 2021

$15-million project expected to open in spring, 2021

B.C. reports first coronavirus in Vancouver region

First patient visited Wuhan, China, reported symptoms

Uber threatens legal action to ‘defend its right’ to operate in Surrey

‘I have no concerns,’ Mayor Doug McCallum replies

Victoria resident says WestJet employee uttered racist comment, refused to let her on plane

Customer claims she was told ‘You guys can’t handle your alcohol’ by WestJet employee

Most Read