On Thursday, Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee debunked Russian President Vladimir Putin’s myth that the Internet was a CIA project. He denied that the World Wide Web was created by U.S. spies employed by the Central Intelligence Agency. According to Berners-Lee, the net was not a CIA creation, but was spread via academia while receiving U.S. state funding.
Putin, an ex-KGB spy, stated that for now he would not restrict access to the Internet by Russians, but he did raise some concerns back in April to a possible crackdown, claiming the net was the CIA’s brainchild. Although not restricting access to the net, Russia has been pushing to have Internet providers filter out objectionable content before providing the services to users. The new procedure of censoring is said to be a costly one per aprominent news site.
Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist, invented the net back in 1989, the same year as the collapse of the Berlin Wall. He said that the net was invented with the assistance of U.S. states, but the concept of the Internet was spread through the academic community. It was that community which linked up their universities, so it was established by thoughtful, well-meaning individuals who saw the benefit.
Berners-Lee once exhorted Great Britain and the United States for corrupting the very foundation of the net by the use of surveillance programs. He also made a plea to the People’s Republic of China to bring down their firewall limiting the access of its citizens to the Internet.
The founder went on further to debunk the internet myth as a CIA project, saying that the net should be protected from interference and disruption by political and commercial agendas. He was asked about the rankings of how 86 countries approach the net and he said that both Myanmar and Ethiopia rounded out the bottom of the list. At the top of the list were Finland and Denmark. The rankings were based on freedom and openness, access, relevant content and empowerment in the political, economic and social sectors. China ranked 44 on the list while the U.S. ranked sixth. Russia was ranked 35, and Britain came in fourth place.
He was asked about the use of his creation by jihadists to spread propaganda and videos of journalist beheadings. Berners-Lee’s response was that the net is neither good nor evil, but reflective of the current conditions of mankind. The web allows for connection in humanity, which includes both good and evil and the invention of the net did not turn everyone into saints or demons. He said he designed an “open” Internet.
As the rise of net surveillance programs and censorship forces certain implications on Internet freedoms, Berners-Lee is standing by the foundation upon which he created the world wide web. He said recognition of the net as a basic human right is essential. Access should be granted to all at an affordable price and should be free from political and commercial discriminations. Extensive Internet censorship was up 38 percent this year as opposed to 32 percent in 2013.
Anne Jellema, World Wide Web Foundation CEO, said that a more affluent and educated person is benefiting more from the digital revolution than the average person. She asserted that the trend could and should be turned around for more uniformity in how people around the world gain access to and use the Internet. In a world that is unequal with a growing gap in equality, the web helps to level the playing field. The founder of the Internet, debunking myths of CIA projects, believed that while neither good nor evil, the net could be a great force for good.
By Stevenson Benoit
Photo by photosteve101 – Flickr License