Magna Carta 'digital rights' open to public vote

The public can vote this week on which clauses should be included in the Magna Carta for the digital age, after school students proposed 500 digital rights.

Thousands of children took part in a global debate called Magna Carta: My Digital Rights organised by the British Library. More than 3,000 students between the ages of 10 and 18 - half of whom were overseas - generated 500 digital rights clauses thought to be worthy of attention in the digital age.

The most popular priority was safety and security online, followed by freedom of speech and freedom of the internet. According to the ComRes analysis, 29 per cent of students opted for safety, protecting young people and preventing bullying on the web, compared with 17 per cent for freedom of speech. Some even called for ‘cyber police’ to patrol and protect the internet.

The public gets to vote online for the clauses suggested, with the top 10 most popular requests being revealed on Monday 15 June. At time of writing, the most popular clause is “not let companies pay to control it [the web], and not let governments restrict our right to information”, written by students aged 12.

The vote will mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and the 25th birthday of the world wide web. The vote is symbolic, but Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has been a fervent supporter of the digital Magna Carta idea, saying that more needs to be done to protect privacy and limit surveillance.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil liberties advocacy organisation Liberty, said: “A Magna Carta for the digital age would ultimately have to be about protecting freedom online – whether that is freedom from big business, big government or organised crime. But it would have to be global, truly international, as these days all human rights instruments have to be.”

Professor Sir David Omand, former director of GCHQ, said: “The online world offers both opportunities and risks and web users need to understand the importance of balancing security with privacy and freedom of expression. As we enter an increasingly digital age, it is crucial that young people are aware of and engage in an informed debate about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to protecting our liberties.”

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