If I ruled the web… (proposing an online constitution)

For the final exercise of the Web Science online course at FutureLearn.com, we were asked to write a short essay on the subject of “If I ruled the web…”   Below is my contribution:

In recent years, the web come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence, so I think introducing an online constitution would be a positive way of guaranteeing internet freedom.

My idea is that the constitution would:

  • -Guarantee online privacy. No more indiscriminate mass surveillance. A person should only be monitored if there is a very good reason and if there is a court order.
  • Enshrine net neutrality in law (meaning that Internet service providers must treat all information and users equally).
  • Promote freedom of information.
  • Guarantee freedom of expression.
  • Prohibit “on by default” filters. It should be up to parents to organise filtering if they don’t want their children to be able to access certain websites, not the government or ISPs.
  • Ensure data protection. Data should not be collected without users’ consent, and they should be able to request its deletion at any time.
  • Encourage the usage of open standards and open source technology. Publicly-funded organisations should use open source instead of proprietary technology and this should also be taught in schools.

Members of the public would be encouraged to contribute ideas for how the constitution should function and what should be included. People would be able to vote for ideas they like and to improve upon other citizens’ ideas, to ensure the process is truly collaborative and democratic.

A constitution very similar to this was introduced in Brazil earlier this year. The inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee also supports the idea of an online “Magna Carta”. So there could be scope for other countries to introduce a similar constitution.

As for problems, I think the main issue would be convincing politicians to pass a bill which is designed to limit their power.