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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

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The focus on net neutrality and open standards has been critical to both the development and adoption of the Internet as an international entity. The big fear I have is that we may well one day see a two tier Internet, one which is spam laden, slow and free, and another that is streamlined, fast, uncluttered, and more expensive. It's critical that we prevent "digital apartheid" from becoming a reality, so make sure to keep pressure on those who would vote to make it possible, and tell them that the consequences of their actions will be withholding of votes for them.
Am I correct in reading the above to mean that young people regard freedom from bullying as more important than freedom of speach?
Philip, if some interactions I have witnessed are any indication, the answer is "yes". Comes down to the whole security vs. freedom argument, but when one has been bullied or online shamed/doxxed, etc. It's certainly understandable why they might be willing to compromise a bit on fully open communication. Personally, I understand the inherent risks of an open Internet, and that means the potential to read things I don't want to see, but I have the choice to read or not read. I personally want to preserve that, and not have another entity make that decision on my behalf, regardless of how well meaning.
Running a digital magna carta thought experiment to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the document seems like a great idea.

What exactly that means, and how it would be proposed, it where I get all fuzzy. From what I can tell we asked a bunch of 8th grade students what they think - and that is the sum of the project?

ohh kay.

The reality is the internet came out of DARPA which was physically secure, so no one build security for it. Once it left DARPA, it just worked. There was no quality of service, no guarentees, you got what you got.

It seems to be working. If big telecom companies want to slow down netflix because netflix is 38% of the downstream internet - well, I'm okay with that - as long as we have a free market where we can choose who to buy from, and someone ain't limiting it.

On the other hand, there is the problem of free speech.

As noble as it is, I don't think 8th graders in London are going to solve the very real problems of repressive regiemes.

But, you know, Twitter seems to help those things. So the internet, even if it is locked down, can be used in so many creative ways, that it might just be part of the solution.