Web Innovator Tim Berners-Lee: Internet Is a Human Right


Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee believes the Internet should be recognized as a basic human right and should be protected from interference by politics and commercial bodies.

Berners-Lee also spoke about Europe's "right to be forgotten," suggesting that it may not actually be such a good idea, at the LeWeb conference in Paris,

"This right to be forgotten -- at the moment, it seems to be dangerous," said Berners-Lee at the event on Wednesday. "The right to access history is important."

The right-to-be-forgotten policy is essentially the notion that people should have the right to request that links to pages about them be removed from search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. The rule does not suggest the actual data is removed, but simply that the data will be screened from search results.

Berners-Lee is normally more sympathetic to such causes, making his opposition rather significant. He suggests online protection is very important in areas such as privacy, free speech and net neutrality.

Despite his opposition to the theory, Berners-Lee says false information should be removed. True information, however, is important for free speech and history. He went on to say that a better way to handle the challenge would be to protect people from use of older information.

"It's our society. We build it. We can define the rules about how to use data," he continued at the conference. "That's much better than trying to pretend a thing never happened."

When asked about his World Wide Web Foundation's rankings of how 86 countries handle the Internet, Berners-Lee said the Internet should be considered a human right and protected from commercial and political interference.

Countries like Ethiopia and Myanmar were at the bottom of the list, with Denmark and Finland being at the top. The list takes things like access, freedom, openness, relevant content, and so on into consideration. The U.S. was ranked sixth on that list, with Russian ranked 35th and China being ranked 44th.

Berners-Lee also spoke about comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who said that American spies in the CIA originally created the Internet. Putin is himself a former KGB spy and does not use email.

"The Internet is not a CIA creation," said Berners-Lee, who is a London-born computer scientist. He went on to say the Internet was created with the help of U.S. funding, but that it was spread through academics.

Berners-Lee has, in the past, criticized both the U.S. and Britain for use of the Internet for surveillance programs.

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