Internet voices need to find responsible ways to circumvent oppression
It was an odd scene at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth offering a prize for engineering to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the internet. Attending the event was British Prime Minister David Cameron.
After the event, Berners-Lee was asked to make a statement on Edward Snowden's claim that the world wide web has been hijacked by governments to spy on individuals. With Cameron – very much a part of the "governments" being referred to – standing there, Berners-Lee noted that "nasty" things can happen on the internet, according to The Guardian.
He went on to state that it's necessary for society to ensure that the Internet's value is not eroded by corporations or governments that want total control of the web. Whether or not Cameron got red faced is unknown but he most certainly wasn't comfortable.
The questions won't and should not stop about how much or little Internet freedom there really is in developed nations today. Many of those questions have been directed at British and American officials that have admitted to sharing files obtained through the controversial PRISM program. However, on this occasion the question was presented to the father of the Internet who easily and readily stated that it remain universally accessible and free from excessive control.
Global internet control
If we are to believe information from Freedom House, Internet access is becoming more controlled and limited on a global scale. In a 2012 report, the source studied 47 nations and calculated the respective levels of Internet freedom and access. In 20 separate countries, the trends were negative compared to 2011, indicating that government officials in such nations were controlling internet access to a greater extent than the previous year.
Included in that number are four democratic nations.
Another troubling statistic provided by Freedom House was that bloggers or other Internet users were arrested in 26 of the surveyed nations for content posted on the web.
Simply put, there is a systematic lack of Internet freedom across the world, highlighted on this map from Freedom House. Oddly enough, that map lists the United States and the U.K. as having totally free Internet access. Based on recent revelations, that's certainly up for debate.
Strength in numbers
At the Buckingham Palace event, Berners-Lee made an incredibly apt point that should not be lost on society.
"The original design of the web of 24 years ago was for a universal space, we didn't have a particular computer in mind or browser, or language," he said, according to The Guardian.
No matter how much governments or companies attempt to suppress Internet activity, it's simply too much of a universal behemoth to keep pinned down. In just 24 years, so much progress has been made and the same sort of rapid development will certainly take place over the next 24 years.
Overall, those of us with Internet access have enough control and enough ability to create a web environment that we want. Although just roughly one third of the planet's population has access to the Internet, that's still an incredible portion of society. A portion that is difficult for any government to control.
But how do we responsibly showcase our desire to keep the Internet out of the controlling hands of international governments and corporations? What strategies or practices can every day citizens employ to ensure that the voices calling for Internet freedom will not be silenced?
We have the strength in numbers, now we need the strength of ideas. And if the Internet has proven anything, it's that innovation and revolution is born from access to the web.