On the 25th anniversary of his first proposal for what would become the World Wide Web (the “Web”), Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee expressed concern at what he sees as the increasing threat that governments and commercial interests pose to the openness and accessibility of the Web. In a wide-ranging interview with the UK’s The Guardian newspaper, Berners-Lee criticized the approach that some lawmakers have taken on issues such as net neutrality and copyright legislation, as well as the decision by some countries to limit access to the wider Internet. He also called for an end to the control that the U.S. Department of Commerce exerts over the Internet Domain Name System.
To address these concerns, Berners-Lee has proposed the creation of a “global constitution,” a digital equivalent of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to guarantee the free flow of information and to foster collaboration and creativity over the open Web. This proposal is being presented by the Web We Want campaign, which is overseen by the World Wide Web Foundation. The campaign will provide small grants to organizations that promote the principles of open access to the Web, and aim to raise public awareness of these issues. Whether the campaign will lead to tangible change remains to be seen, but it is clear that the debate over the question of online rights is far from over.