An Internet Magna Carta?
The Internet's founder proposed a new online Magna Carta to help preserve net neutrality and online freedom around the world.
The World Wide Web recently had its 25th birthday at a time when online freedom seems to be at the crossroads. The Internet has radically changed the way our society functions in both economic and socio-political realms. However, this is not necessarily all for the better.
The Edward Snowden leaks continue to reveal just how extensively the National Security Administration was able to access the personal accounts of internet users. The Washington Times just recently reported that the NSA used a fake Facebook server to hack onto the computers of its various targets. These are alarming developments as the Internet matures.
Tim Berners-Lee submitted his proposal for Internet roughly 25 years ago, knowing that it would soon progress without his own developments. This was due in part to the fact that the Internet was developed as a neutral and open platform that numerous parties could contribute to. This policy has not only led to innovation on the web, but guided the development of some prominent websites like Wikipedia.
As the Internet proliferates into more channels, such as mobile devices and even the "Internet of Things," the ways that the Internet affects how we go about our lives changes. With more governments looking to increase their control over cyberspace, this could compromise the very ideals that the World Wide Web was founded on.
A Magna Carta
The steps that governments and companies to increase their control over the Internet are certainly alarming. In China, for instance, numerous sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked, while many in the U.S. are concerned about Net Neutrality following a court ruling in favor of ISPs like Verizon.
The Guardian reported that to address these issues, Berners-Lee wants to draft a Magna Carta of sorts that would guarantee the personal freedom's of Internet users around the world.
"These issues have crept up on us," he said, according to the news source. "Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. So I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years."
Berners-Lee launched the Web We Want campaign, which would have individuals in each country draft a bill of rights for their government, so that they can protect their individual rights online. These goals are certainly admirable, but they may be a bit optimistic.
One of the major issues that Berners-Lee identified, at least in his home in the U.K., is that individuals are very trusting in their government. This can sometimes come off as apathy, but he feels that this trust and malpractice comes from lawmakers not fully understanding what can be done with a computer and online.
Another problem with this approach is that it may be too optimistic. In countries where the Internet is heavily regulated, individuals have been prosecuted precisely because they are critical of their government's Internet policy. If they took it upon themselves to draft their own Internet constitution, the repercussions could be grave.
Another issue is that the U.S. is still holding onto the lana contract, which controls the major database for all the domain names on the web. Berners-Lee would like to see more global stakeholders when it comes to the regulation of domain names.
The goals of an Internet Magna Carta are certainly admirable, but there are a number of challenges that could inhibit its success.