A New Magna Carta… An Online Bill of Rights #WebWeWantFest

SB_FEstivalHaving lived and worked in London, my favourite large city for 8 years I consider myself a Londoner. It is one of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the world. The Web We Want Festival kicked off last weekend at the Royal Festival Hall by the SouthBank in London to not only celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the World Wide Web but to also explore threats. For many reasons the location was apt.  Sir Tim Berners Lee is from the UK and grew up in London. Strolling through London or by the Southbank river, which connects to the sea that has brought us together for years, you hear many languages, see many ethnicities and age groups and taste many flavours. Such diversity also reflects the web we want. However, London is also one of the most surveilled countries in the world and this issue was also discussed at the Festival.  One point that was made I thought relevant especially for those that say “I have nothing to hide”.  Mass surveillance is justified because security is very much not taken for granted. On the other hand, this has meant that our freedom is instead being taken for granted and as a result the right to be free can change at any time making our hard fought freedom a thing of the past.20140927_154820

20140927_165852That is one reason why I was hoping that more would attend this Festival. I hoped there would be more Londoners, visitors from other UK cities, more students, more public servants, and maybe even some tourists. It was an opportunity to pop in and learn from leading experts, even if only for an hour on issues as varied as why addressing ongoing surveillance is important, how virtual reality is part of the future of gaming and how to leave a digital legacy to your children. The buzz however was to be found just outside at the ‘Real Food Market‘, which I popped into more than once to grab a bite to eat. Maybe bringing the festival to the food would have increased participation. Many nationalities were represented at the market, from Caribbean to Korean.  The word ‘festival’ does conjure up thoughts of food, which is something none of us can do without, but also one thing that unites us. We need something akin to a rumbling stomach to bring us together to address the issues that arise with the growth of the web. The idea for a Magna Carta for the Web, an online bill of rights is an excellent one. The Magna Carta drafted in 1215 can be found at the British Library located in this very London.  In 1215 it was not given much significance or fanfare till the years that followed. Attending the Web We Want Fest I reflected on the way this Magna Carta for the web was being developed. I thought about how many in not just London but in the majority of this world where billions of us of live are unaware or just don’t participate, even though the future of its development is of tremendous importance like the original Magna Carta was back then. Luckily, there are those that understand its importance and push ahead to secure the wellbeing, the safety, the rights and equality of not just the few but also the very many like the drafters of the first Magna Carta sought to do. I left my suggestions on the wall.

There are 63 clauses in the first Magna Carta but only 3 are still valid as many are no longer relevant. We have the opportunity to create a Magna Carta for the Web, an online bill of rights, which is not just for London, but for the world, one that is valid, omnipresent and importantly one we can contribute to. If in London pop by the next Web We Want Festival in Southbank on 28 – 30 November. If you are not in London watch online, start a project of interest to you, contribute to the Magna Carta via social media and read more about the online issues that affect you and do what you can to help address them.