Tim Berners-Lee Calls For 'Online Magna Carta' To Protect Net Neutrality On 25th Anniversary

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TIM BERNERSLEE
In this Thursday, March 31, 2011 file photo, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee addresses the media during the International World Wide Web conference in Hyderabad, India. The scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, are searching for the first Web page. It was there that Berners-Lee invented the Web in 1990 as an unsanctioned project. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A., File) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

The World Wide Web must remain accessible to everyone, according to Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the Internet 25 years ago this week.

"The web's billions of users are what have made it great. I hope that many of them will join me in celebrating this important milestone," said the computer scientist. "I also hope this anniversary will spark a global conversation about our need to defend principles that have made the web successful, and to unlock the web's untapped potential."

"I believe we can build a web that truly is for everyone: one that is accessible to all, from any device, and one that empowers all of us to achieve our dignity, rights and potential as humans," he added.

Speaking to the Guardian on Tuesday evening, Berners-Lee went a step further, calling for the online Magna Carta, a Bill of Rights that would protect the independence of his invention and ensure that corporations and governments would be unable to curb its neutrality in the future.

He told the newspaper, "We need a global constitution – a bill of rights. 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."

Anne Jellema, the chief executive of Sir Tim Berners-Lee's Web Foundation, echoed those sentiments, adding that privacy is fundamental to freedom of expression. "We're very excited about the 25th anniversary, it's a great moment to try to find solutions to the problems facing the next 25 years of the web without fear of consequences.

"(One of) the biggest issues is privacy and the huge amounts of data held by the big companies (who monitor) what we do and buy. Privacy is fundamental to freedom of expression and it has rightly got a lot of attention. The last year has been a drum roll of revelations - governments, not just the USA but the UK, German, Indian, are more and more collecting bulk data and storing data."

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Dr Jeffrey Jaffe, CEO of the World Wide Consortium (W3C) who works with Sir Tim in his current role, said it was "amazing" how the web has transformed our lives. "The web has transformed society - how we get information, how we interact with other human beings in terms of social networks, how we conduct business, the way we get educated and entertained has changed. All the major functions of life have been changed by the web," Dr Jaffe said.

Although the CEO said the web faced challenges and presented many opportunities, he warned that "technology has often moved faster than society". He added: "There are huge challenges in protecting people's privacy and making the web secure. Society overall doesn't know what it wants in terms of protection on the web (because) there are generational differences and attitudinal issues. Then there are technological issues.

"What is important to us is that the web achieves its full potential but that will only happen if people trust the web to be secure." But Dr Jaffe said the web presented many opportunities for different industries including education, entertainment and publishing.

"Everyone can become a publisher and market their products on the web and get massive distribution." Sir Tim and Dr Jaffe called on users to tell the Web Foundation their dream for the web via Twitter using the hashtag, #web25.

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