Amanda Long, Director General of Consumers International and Anne Jellema, CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation discuss their new partnership to create a People’s Charter for the Internet and what this will mean for consumers.
“The web is now a public resource on which people, businesses, communities and governments depend. I believe that the future of the Web is under threat from some governments that may abuse their powers, some businesses that may try to undermine the open market, and from criminal activity. The future of the Web depends on ordinary people taking responsibility for this extraordinary resource and challenging those who seek to manipulate the Web against the public good.”
So wrote Sir Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web inventor, and founding director of the Web Foundation, last year. Of course, the opportunities – and challenges – posed by digital technology have been long foretold. In 1962, addressing the United States Congress, US president John F. Kennedy observed: “The march of technology… has increased the difficulties of the consumer along with the opportunities; and it has outmoded many of the old laws and regulations and made new legislation necessary.”
What can we do to ensure that Internet’s power is returned to individuals, and that the Web is advanced as a public good that benefits all of us?
At Consumers International, and the World Wide Web Foundation, we think it’s time for a People’s Charter for the Internet. One which starts with the presumption that all women and men should have equal access to the life-changing power of the Internet, and should have the same rights and freedoms online as apply offline. One that gives us control over our personal data and how it is used, whether by companies, governments or other organisations. One which puts fledgling entrepreneurs on a level playing field with giant multi-nationals, and gives everyone a chance to create and succeed – whether in business, science, education or any field of human endeavour.
We’re not alone in feeling this way. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Privacy has declared that it’s time for a new ‘Geneva Convention’ for the Internet. Countries such as Brazil and Italy have created their own ‘Bills of Rights’ for the Internet. Meanwhile, 80% of respondents to a recent Consumers International member survey said that legislation, regulation and standards relating to redress are ineffective at keeping pace with the digital economy.
We know what is at stake and so we are determined to tackle this challenge. That’s why, today, we’re announcing a new partnership between Consumers International and the World Wide Web Foundation to drive this idea forward. By joining forces, we can bring together over 400 member and partner organisations that span consumer rights, digital rights and civil liberties across more than 120 countries. By bridging our two communities, we can create a powerful vehicle for change.
How might we develop such a Charter? We’re clear that it needs to balance the views of experts, industry stakeholders, regulators and ordinary people, so it truly reflects the Web we all want, and we’ll be gathering views far and wide. And how might it be used? We’re not naive enough to think that it will become international law anytime soon, but using our networks, we can work to convince companies and governments to commit to its principles, and ensure that the Internet advances empowerment, rights and opportunity for all..
We’ll be making more announcements in the new year with specifics about how the Charter will be built and launched, but for now keep up to date with developments on the Consumers International website and on our social media channels, Facebook: facebook.com/consumersinternational
and Twitter: @Consumers_Int.
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