Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the ‘world wide web’, has scathingly criticised Facebook’s ambitious internet.org. In fact, Berners-Lee has launched a campaign called ‘Web We Want’ promoting five key principles for the future of the web.
When asked about Internet.org, Facebook’s non-profit organisation that aims to extend access to a few select websites in the developing world, Berners-Lee said people should “just say no” to the project.
When it comes to compromising on net neutrality, “I tend to say ‘just say no’,” he said. He did not elaborate why but his blunt denouncement perhaps arises from fears that Zuckerberg’s brainchild threatens the freedom of expression itself.
Berners-Lee told The Guardian:
“In the particular case of somebody who’s offering … something which is branded internet, it’s not internet, then you just say no. No it isn’t free, no it isn’t in the public domain, there are other ways of reducing the price of internet connectivity and giving something … [only] giving people data connectivity to part of the network deliberately, I think is a step backwards.”
Internet.org has been severely criticised by advocacy groups from around the world and some corporate giants in India.
Sixty-five advocacy groups wrote letter to Zuckerberg labelling the project as a threat to “freedom of expression, equality of opportunity, security, privacy, and innovation”.
Internet.org allows users in developing countries to access certain websites for free – turning Facebook and Internet.org into de facto gatekeepers of the net, dictating what people can and can’t access online.
Partners include Samsung, Nokia, Opera, and Ericsson. In the last several months, however, multiple local partners have pulled out of the scheme over net neutrality concerns. Indian corporate houses have been particularly against the project. Many believe that it will create a disadvantage and would favour one web company over another.
Net neutrality is the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally.
The ‘Web We Want’ of Berners-Lee focuses on freedom of expression on-line and offline, affordable access to the net, protection of user date, privacy, a decentralised and open infrastructure, and net neutrality.
The campaign is insistent that the five principles are minimum for a starting point, and that compromise on those points is not helpful to the goal.
He is also critical of the British government’s purported plan to widen the ambit of surveillance. Berners-Lee has urged Britons to fight the government’s plan to extend the country’s surveillance powers, and act as worldwide leader for promoting good governance on the web.
In an unexpected move announced in the Queen’s Speech earlier this week, the government is to introduce an investigatory powers bill far more wide-ranging than expected.
The legislation will include not only the expected snooper’s charter, enabling the tracking of everyone’s web and social media use, but also moves to strengthen the security services’ warranted powers for the bulk interception of the content of communications.