Surveillance and cyberbullying: The British Library's Magna Carta for a Digital Age

By Culture24 Reporter | 15 April 2015

The British Library's 'Magna Carta for the web' highlights concerns over government surveillance and cyber-bullying

a split screen of three young people speaking
Part of the My Digital Rights learning resource from the British Library© British Library
As the Queen, Prime Minister and other dignitaries converge on Runnymede, the results of the British Library’s vote to see which clauses would be included in a ‘Magna Carta for the digital age’ have revealed that government surveillance and censorship are the most popular issues when it comes to the Web.

Since February 2015, when the project was launched on BBC Radio 1’s The Surgery, over 500 clauses have been submitted by thousands of school students (aged 10-18 years old) around the world as part of the British Library’s Magna Carta: My Digital Rights project.

The subsequent online vote to select the most popular has resulted in a top ten dominated by government restrictions our right to information, freedom of speech, government censorship, mass surveillance, equal access and the selling on of personal information.  

Using My Digital Rights teaching resources, students also took part in debates and workshops to consider a range of issues online, from cyberbullying to surveillance.

Analysis of the clauses published on the British Library’s website last week showed students who participated in workshops were concerned about safety, protecting young people and preventing bullying on the Web, over freedom of speech or freedom of the internet (29% compared to 17%).

“It has been fascinating to see how the public’s top clauses have compared to those of the thousands of students who have co-created this ‘Magna Carta for the digital age’,” says Sarah Shaw, project manager of Magna Carta: My Digital Rights.

“The project was conceived to encourage young people to think about issues of privacy, access and freedom raised by Magna Carta in the digital age.

"These ‘Top 10’ clauses we have revealed today show a snapshot of how the public feel at this 800th anniversary moment about our rights and responsibilities on the Web.”

With the clauses remaining online in perpetuity, the British Library is hoping they will become "part of an ever-evolving Magna Carta for the digital age".

The project was jointly conceived by the British Library, World Wide Web Foundation, Southbank Centre and British Council and forms part of the Library’s Learning programme, supporting their exhibition Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.

The Top 10 clauses will remain online as an ever-evolving Magna Carta for the digital age’.

The top ten clauses.

•    The Web we want will not let companies pay to control it, and not let governments restrict our right to information
•    The Web we want will allow freedom of speech
•    The Web we want will be free from government censors in all countries
•    The Web we want will not allow any kind of government censorship
•    The Web we want will be available for all those who wish to use it
•    The Web we want will be free from censorship and mass surveillance
•    The Web we want will allow equal access to knowledge, information and current news worldwide
•    The Web we want will have freedom of speech
•    The Web we want will not be censored by the government
•    The Web we want will not sell our personal information and preferences for money, and will make it clearer if the company/Website intends to do so

The public can continue to vote for their favourite clauses on the My Digital Rights website

For more on Magna Carta see: Where to celebrate the Magna Carta: The UK's best exhibitions and locations

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