Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Internet believes NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden should be protected. “Because he had no other alternative, (and he) engaged as a journalist / with a journalist to be careful of how what was released, and provided an important net overall benefit to the world, I think he should be protected, and we should have ways of protecting people like him. Because we can try to design perfect systems of government, and they will never be perfect, and when they fail, then the whistleblower may be all that saves society,” Berners-Lee wrote during an AMA session on Reddit to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web.
He also believes the government is right to monitor the net but added that the monitoring agency should be accountable to the public. “I think that some monitoring of the net by government agencies is going to be needed to fight crime. We need to invent a new system of checks and balances with unprecedented power to be able to investigate and hold the agencies which do it accountable to the public,” he wrote.
While Berners-Lee wants to see the net as a neutral medium, he senses that there could be a possibility in the future when we look back and think about a neutral, free and uncensored web. When asked about the future, he wrote, “I think it is up to us. I’m not guessing, I’m hoping. Yes, I can imagine that all to easily. If ordinary web users are not sufficiently aware of threats and get involved and if necessary take to the streets like for SOPA and PIPA and ACTA. On balance? I am optimistic.”
When asked if he ever felt like Robert Oppenheimer, one of the creators of the atomic bomb, who later quoted a line from the Bhagwad Gita – “Now I am become death. The destroyer of worlds” – Berners-Lee disagreed. “The web is a — primarily neutral — tool for humanity. When you look at humanity you see the good and the bad, the wonderful and the awful. A powerful tool can be used for good or ill. Things which are really bad are illegal on the web as they are off it. On balance, communication is good think I think: much of the badness comes from misunderstanding,” he wrote.
Eventually, Berners-Lee believes the future of the Internet is in our own hands and it depends on us how we mould it. “It is up to us. It is an artificial creation, as are our laws, and our constitutions … we can chose how they work. We can make new ones. Our choice.”
You can check out the questions Berners-Lee answered during the AMA session here.