The inventor of the Internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee speaking at a conference in Brazil earlier this year

Berners-Lee calls for Internet 'Magna Carta'

Internet founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee has called for a global 'Magna Carta' to be created to make Internet safer and more democratic.

Speaking at a seminar in London, Sir Tim said more needs to be done to protect privacy and limit surveillance as the web celebrates its 25th birthday.

"This year I would like us to have the global Magna Carta unveiled and that means in this country we need to participate in a global Magna Carta and translate it into a large number of languages", he said.

"Our homework as Brits is that by the end of the year we've got a list of laws that we know we're going to have to put in place and introduce. We have to know a list of laws we're going to have to tweak, that are already there. We're going to have to have some government structures that we're really going to have to tweak to ensure that we entrench very specific powers that we give to very specific agents. So by the end of this year we need to work as hard as we can to achieve it," he explained.

The speech was part of the launch of the Web We Want Festival that will take place at London’s Southbank Centre in September and run for three weekends, covering web freedom, creativity and learning.

Appearing on-stage during a video link conversation with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who exposed extensive global surveillance by government agencies, Sir Tim called for a "bill of rights" to be introduced to protect all users online. This was a point reiterated by the creator of the web, who said that the watershed moment for this idea came during unrest in the Middle East and the way the web was censored.

"When (Hosni) Mubarak disconnected Egypt from the Internet, I think that's when a lot of people out there said, and started to think; 'wait a moment, who can turn off my Internet?' and that caused some reaction, and it showed the digital gap that existed", he said.

The idea of a set of rights, applicable to all web users, was first mentioned during a TED conference in Vancouver, earlier this year.

During his talk in London, Berners-Lee also discussed the movement towards net neutrality, proposed to secure freedom, democracy and accessibility of the Internet.

Sir Tim said: "People have been jumping up and down and talking about net neutrality, defining the neutrality of the network. There's been a massive PR campaign on behalf of various companies to try to make people aware, but the thing is nobody knows what net neutrality is.

“Net neutrality; that's everyone being able to use the Internet for free isn't it? But there's been this huge corporate push campaign trying to eat away at these core principles. The conclusion was that we've got to use this view just to get a peak, an understanding of public awareness and not take it for granted, so that's what we're asking for from everyone."

Mentioning Brazil as a good example of a country which has recently passed an Internet bill of rights to protect its citizens and their data online, Sir Tim called on all countries to follow suit.

Under the new legislation, technology giants like Facebook and Google will now be subject to Brazilian laws in cases involving citizens of the country, even if the data in question was stored on servers overseas.

"What they've done in Brazil is to put into law some basic principles, a charter of the Internet almost, that says your Internet service should not block you, should not discriminate, should not only let you get to their friends or their corporate partners or political friends for example,” he said. “I should be able to go on the Internet without the government looking over my shoulder, although that is a complicated idea. The EU too have put through a bill, so that and the Brazilian situation show that we are making progress but there is still more to be done."

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering last year together with three other scientists considered the godfathers of the Internet.

In 1989, while working at CERN, he proposed an information management system and implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet.

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