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

WEATHER: Showers in the forecast for Langley

Rain is expected to begin Tuesday afternoon

Council gives thumbs up to Aldergrove core development

The multi-phased project could receive final approval soon

Former Langley resident and country musician embarks on cross-province tour

Kellen Saip will perform at the Water Shed Arts Cafe on March 13

Langley teens spread the love to residents at Langley Memorial Hospital

R.E. Mountain Secondary students gifted teddy bears

Do you talk to your spouse about money? 42% of Canadians don’t, poll suggests

Politics, sex, religion top list of taboo subjects for Canadians

Okanagan animal sanctuary seeks to fit frostbitten baby goat with prosthetic leg

Fundraiser started to help Zuri, newest resident of Twin Hearts Animal Sanctuary

UPDATE: Two killed in fiery collision on Highway 1 near Revelstoke

The Trans Canada Highway was closed for four hours

Father, two children killed after car goes over embankment on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

Chilliwack youth coach acquitted of sexual touching of a minor

BC Supreme Court justice finds reasonable doubt despite not believing the accused

Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters block rail lines in Abbotsford

Two dozen set up barricades between Riverside and Vye Roads

Trout ‘doing quite well’ at Kootenay hatchery after otters, who ate 150 fish, relocated

River otters had been pillaging a moat outside the facility for months, gobbling up about 150 trout

Most Read