Sir Tim Berners-Lee believes access to the Internet is a basic human right.
The World Wide Web creator and founder of the Web Foundation, Berners-Lee (pictured) suggested that, in an increasingly unequal world, the Internet has the power to be a great equalizer. But only 'if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access, and net neutrality into the rules of the game,' he said.
The Web Foundation this week released its annual Web Index report, which focused on issues like privacy, censorship, gender-based violence, equality, and now net neutrality, across 86 countries.
This year's findings point to a less free Web, which remains unavailable to almost 60 percent of the world's population, or about 4.3 billion people. What's more, half of those people who do have access to the Internet live in areas that restrict access to the Web. Almost 40 percent of countries are now censoring politically or socially sensitive content—up 6 percent from 2013.
'It's time to recognize the Internet as a basic human right,' Berners-Lee said in a statement. 'That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring Internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of Web users regardless of where they live.'
The foundation suggested that 84 percent of communities have weak or even non-existent laws to protect citizens from mass surveillance.
Unsurprisingly, nations that have high levels of wealth, low levels of inequality, and strong protections for civil liberties (think Denmark, Finland, and Norway) gain the most social and economic benefit from the Web.
But the Web Foundation hopes to close that gap by calling on policymakers for change, suggesting more net neutrality protections, better public education, and the promotion of press freedom and civil liberties.
'This trend can and must be reversed,' the nonprofit's CEO Anne Jellema said. 'Extreme disparities between rich and poor have been rightly identified as the defining challenge of our age, and we need to use technology to fight inequality, not increase it.'