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Freedom of speech dominates Magna Carta for digital age

A world wide web that will not let companies pay to control it, and not let governments restrict the right to information is the most popular clause for a digital era Magna Carta

Freedom of speech dominates the top ten clauses chosen by 30,000 visitors to the Magna Carta: My Digital Rights website.

The project was jointly conceived by the British Library, World Wide Web Foundation, Southbank Centre and British Council.

Visitors to the site were asked to choose their favourites from more than 500 clauses submitted by thousands of 10 to 18 year olds worldwide and were published on 8 June.

Analysis of the clauses showed a leaning by young people to safety, protecting young people and preventing bullying on the Web (29%), over freedom of speech or freedom of the internet (17%).

“It has been fascinating to see how the public’s top clauses have compared to those of the thousands of students who have co-created this ‘Magna Carta for the digital age’,” says Sarah Shaw, project manager of Magna Carta: My Digital Rights.

“The project was conceived to encourage young people to think about issues of privacy, access and freedom raised by Magna Carta in the digital age. These ‘Top 10’ clauses show a snapshot of how the public feel at this 800th anniversary moment about our rights and responsibilities on the web,” she said.

The public can continue to vote for their favourite clauses on the My Digital Rights website and the “Top 10” clauses will remain online as an ever-evolving “Magna Carta for the digital age”.

Ed Macnair, chief executive of cloud security firm CensorNet, said the digital Magna Carta is something the information security industry must take seriously.

“It is this generation’s responsibility to set the best practice parameters for behaviour, expectation and protection when using the internet to provide the digital utopia the next generation are calling for,” he said.

Read more about Tim Berners-Lee

Macnair added that the fact thousands of youngsters participated in nominating the clauses for the digital Magna Carta shows they care about this subject.

“We fully support the creation of this new digital bill of rights and believe the infosecurity industry should take the content of the top 10 as the starting point for all future product development,” he said.

The founder and inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee launched the Web We Want campaign in March 2014 to mark the 25th anniversary of his invention.

The campaign is supported by the inventor’s World Wide Web Foundation and calls for a “free, open and truly global internet” and the drafting of a digital era Magna Carta or “Internet Users Bill of Rights” for every country.

At the opening of the Southbank Centre’s Web We Want Festival on 30 May 2015, Berners-Lee expressed his concerns that the UK’s planned Investigatory Powers Bill will expand authorities’ abilities to monitor citizens’ communications and online activities. 

He called on the government to demonstrate that it can build a system that is accountable to UK citizens, and one that ensures  security services look at private data with proper legal oversight.

The top 10 most popular clauses

The web we want:

  • will not let companies pay to control it, and not let governments restrict our right to information.
  • will allow freedom of speech.
  • will be free from government censors in all countries.
  • will not allow any kind of government censorship.
  • will be available for all those who wish to use it.
  • will be free from censorship and mass surveillance.
  • will allow equal access to knowledge, information and current news worldwide.
  • will have freedom of speech.
  • will not be censored by the government.
  • will not sell our personal information and preferences for money, and will make it clearer if the company/website intends to do so.

Read more on Privacy and data protection