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British Library lets kids design ‘Internet Magna Carta’

A British Library project has seen kids put an uncensored Internet and freedom of speech at the top of a new Magna Carta for the online age. 

Over 3,000 students aged 10-18 forwarded clauses for the My Digital Rights project, which will be fully unveiled on June 15, the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta’s signing. 

Between now and then, the public will get to vote for their favourite clauses and the top ten will be unveiled next Monday. 

At the time of writing, the top ten clauses include universal access to an unrestricted Internet that’s free from censorship and safeguards individual privacy. 

While the UK government is committed to rolling out superfast broadband to the majority of premises by 2017, this will in effect create a two tier system unless the remaining five per cent is able to order the same services.  

Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org plan, which aims to bring net access to developing parts of the world (like Europe) has received criticism over its potential to funnel access into a very limited and Facebook-dominated version of the Internet. 

The launch of the My Digital Rights project follows in the wake of a legal challenge to the UK’s DRIPA (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act) legislation by a group of MPs and campaign group Liberty

The Act was rushed into force to replace RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act), which was found to have violated the human rights of British citizens by the European Court of Justice. 

Liberty’s director Shami Chakrabarti said: “A Magna Carta for the digital age would ultimately have to be about protecting freedom online – whether that is freedom from big business, big government, or organised crime. But it would have to be global, truly international, as these days all human rights instruments have to be.”

DRIPA requires ISPs to harvest customers IP data, and make this available to security services like GCHQ on request, for a period of 12 months. This Act comes with a built-in sunset clause that will see it expire in December 2016, if it’s not replaced with another act before then. 

Professor Sir David Omand, one-time director of GCHQ added: “The online world offers both opportunities and risks and web users need to understand the importance of balancing security with privacy and freedom of expression. 

“As we enter an increasingly digital age, it is crucial that young people are aware of and engage in an informed debate about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to protecting our liberties.”

Following government pressure, of the UK’s main ISPs now offer network-level parental controls with all packages and block access to adult content by default. 

Following the defeat of the Communications Data Bill by the Liberal Democrats in the previous Coalition government, the new Conservative government wasted little time getting the Investigatory Powers Bill – which is thought to increase the scope of surveillance – into the Queen’s Speech. 

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