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

Will Kelowna’s palm trees survive the winter?

The trees are hardy and should survive

Kelowna Chiefs backup helping team remain atop the league

Michael Toole has helped the Chiefs in backup duties with 10 wins in

‘Latte-sipping urbanites’ need to realize value of mining in B.C., association head says

Industry generates a total of $3.9 billion in sales of goods and service across the province

‘Deeply sorry’: Former West Kelowna teacher offers emotional apology to student he sexually exploited

Judge will make decision on Bradley Furman’s sentencing in the coming weeks

Not-for-profit Kelowna dental clinic to celebrate 15 year anniversary with event on Friday

Dental staff at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission will host event at 2509B Leon Avenue from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m..

VIDEO: Rare ‘ice circle’ spotted on Kamloops river

An ice circle or ice pan, has formed in the chilly waters just east of the Yellowhead Bridge

‘I would not go’ to China says B.C. traveller concerned about coronavirus

Alice Li said she goes to China every other year but would scrap any travel plans

Royal Canadian Legion expels B.C. member for wearing unearned military commendations

‘Stolen valour is stolen service and it’s just totally wrong’

‘I was alone’: B.C. woman warns others after robber attempts to force her to ATM

Manj Sidhu-Gill was alone in a parking lot on Jan. 15, when a man approached dressed in all black

Morning Start: Chinese New Year, Year of the Metal Rat

Your morning start for Friday, Jan. 24

Trans-Canada to close at 11 a.m. for avalanche work

The highway will be closed until 2 p.m.

‘Green’ solution for excessive cannabis packaging a hit with Okanagan consumers

Tweed/Terracycle recycling program for cannabis products well-used, well-received by consumers.

Health upgrades in South Okanagan and Similkameen forecast to cost nearly $10 million

Capital projects include CT scanner, medical vacuum system, ultrasounds and more

PET OF THE WEEK: Fern needs a playing buddy

Cat at Critteraid in Summerland searching for a forever home

Most Read