British Library invites public to build ‘Magna Carta’ for digital age

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This week there’s a chance to shape a ‘Magna Carta for the digital age’ by voting for My Digital Rights clauses generated by school students from around the world.

In conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the web, 3000 10 to 18 year olds, including 50 per cent from overseas, have taken part in Magna Carta: My Digital Rights. It aims to encourage young people to think about the issues of freedom and control raised by Magna Carta in the context of the digital age.

Using My Digital Rights teaching resources, young people have taken part in debates and workshops to consider a range of digital topics from cyberbullying to surveillance and written their own ‘clauses’ in response. Since January the Library has received over 500 clauses from schoolchildren relating to freedom, privacy and access.

From today the public can vote on their favourite clauses and on Monday 15 June, Magna Carta Day, the British Library will publish the results in the form of a ‘Magna Carta for the digital age’.

The clauses from students are striking: rather than a call for freedom or openness half of the submissions reveal a marked concern about safety and security online.

Analysis shows students who participated in workshops leaning towards safety, protecting young people and preventing bullying on the web, over freedom of speech or freedom of the internet (29% compared to 17%).

The school resources cover a wide range of topics, but there is a clear lean towards students wanting to feel safe and protected online, with curbs to cyberbullying. Some even call for ‘cyber police’ to protect the web.

Launched with BBC Radio 1 earlier this year as part of the BBC’s Taking Liberties season, the project has been jointly conceived by the British Library, World Wide Web FoundationSouthbank Centre and British Council.

The Library also consulted a range of public figures, including human rights activists, technology experts and surveillance specialists, during the course of the project. The contributors, such as Shami Chakrabarti, Professor Sir David Omand, Caroline Criado-Perez and Simon Phipps wrote articles and featured in films as part of the project.

The public can now vote for their favourite clauses on the My Digital Rights website until Monday 15 June, Magna Carta Day, when we will unveil the ‘Top 10’ clauses that emerge.

Chris Price