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Web Inventor Tim Berners-Lee: Internet Is “Basic Human Right”

Tim Berners-Lee at the 2014 #WebWeWantFest in London. (Photo: Southbank Centre)

Tim Berners-Lee at the 2014 #WebWeWantFest in London. (Photo: Southbank Centre)

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee believes affordable Internet access should be recognized as a “basic human right.”

Responding to a newly-released World Wide Web Foundation report revealing that nearly 4.4 billion people, or more than 60 percent of the world’s population, have no Internet access, Berners-Lee said on Thursday that “it’s time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right.”

“That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live,” said Berners-Lee, according to the Associated Press.

The 59-year-old British computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web said the Internet can play a constructive role in combatting inequality, but only if privacy and freedom of expression are protected.

According to the World Wide Web Foundation’s 2014-2015 Web Index, web users are at an ever-increasing risk of government surveillance, with 84 percent of the world’s nations having weak or no laws against mass surveillance. Online censorship is increasing around the world, with “moderate or extreme” censorship existing in 38 percent of the world’s nations. The report found that half of the world’s Internet users live in countries that severely restrict online rights.

It also noted troubling economic and gender disparities in accessibility and protections, with 4.4 billion people in developing countries lacking Internet access. Of these, most are poor, female and rural. The report found that gender-based violence is not being effectively addressed, with 74 percent of the countries studied failing to take appropriate legal action to protect women and girls.

Denmark, Finland and Norway scored best in the report at using the Internet for economic, political and social progress, while Yemen, Myanmar and Ethiopia were ranked worst among the 86 nations studied.

Berners-Lee has previously called for an ‘Internet Bill of Rights’ to ensure greater privacy and independence on the web. Addressing the #WebWeWantFest in London in September, he said Internet freedom is under threat from governments and corporations seeking to control the web.

“If a company can control your access to the Internet, if they can control which websites they go to, then they have tremendous control over your life,” Berners-Lee said. “If a government can block you going to, for example, the opposition’s political pages, then they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power.”

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