Open Standards Support a Free Internet and Global Human Rights

Posted on March 6th, 2014

We are approaching the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Over the past decades, the Internet has become much more powerful, interactive and intertwined with our lives, and there are now billions of people connected to the internet. However, in many countries the Internet access is tightly controlled and monitored. It is also estimated that over 40 percent of the world’s population still lack access.

In this emerging era, fundamentally new questions about the Web are being asked and answered. Are Internet rights becoming human rights? And if so, how far do those rights extend?

In 2012, The UN Council on Human Rights adopted a resolution to protect the freedom of speech of individuals on the Internet. With that resolution, the UN acknowledged that Internet rights are tightly entwined with human rights.

Currently, The Council on Human Rights is working on putting together a report identifying the challenges that lie ahead in the fight for human rights. Web inventor, Tim Berners-Lee addressed the Council at a recent 2013 Human Rights Day event on Building a World Wide Human Rights Web. Here’s what Tim had to say:

 

Mr. Berners-Lee identified three rights that he believes are essential to the Internet:

  1. Affordability of access
  2. Information rights
  3. Freedom to communicate without being blocked or spied upon.

Berners-Lee argued that if access to information is a fundamental right for all people, then it must be affordable for all, and not only the wealthy and educated. He also stressed the importance of open data and transparency for government, arguing that government data, which is typically collected using taxpayers’ money, should be made available to the public. In addition to government transparency, he argued that open data creates economic opportunities for businesses. Perhaps most importantly, Berners-Lee stressed that people must not live in fear that they are being spied on when they search for information online.

Berners-Lee ended his presentation with an announcement that the World Wide Web Foundation (W3C) had launched a global campaign called “Web We Want” to start a dialogue on Internet rights. Berners-Lee encouraged everyone, from consumers to national leaders, to engage in a global dialog to define the Internet rights that are most important and determine how to ensure these rights can be afforded on a global scale. Web We Want is an example of a movement that is built upon the OpenStand principles, serving as an open, global forum for discussion.

As the world debates the future of the Internet, more than a few tough questions are being asked related to access, information and freedom. For example, as we approach the development of new standards for identity management in an increasingly unsafe world, we must ask ourselves whether privacy and security are mutually exclusive. While helping to ensure the privacy of world citizens, we must also develop mechanisms to protect society from harm.

As new rules and standards define the future of the Internet, it is essential that consensus is driven by the broadest-possible range of global participants, from industry to public advocates, academia to public policy. The OpenStand Principles offer a time-tested, voluntary and open framework for collaboration, consensus building and market adoption, laying the groundwork for future success.

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