Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned that a "growing tide of surveillance and censorship" is threatening the future of democracy in the wake of the PRISM spying scandal that has rocked the tech industry this year.
The comments from the World Wide Web founder came ahead of the launch of the second annual Web Index report from the World Wide Web Foundation, which measures the web's contribution to development and human rights across the world. The report found that 94 percent of the countries studied did not meet "best-practice standards" when it came to keeping tabs on government snooping on electronic communications.
It also said that social media appeared to be a source for good and social change, with 80 percent of countries seeing social media playing a part in mobilising public action for various causes.
Berners-Lee said: "One of the most encouraging findings of this year's web index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world."
"But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy," he said. "Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online."
Despite grave concerns over surveillance tactics from the GCHQ and the NSA, the UK and the US ranked third and fourth respectively in the Web Index rankings due to high levels of access and content that empowers and educates web users. Sweden and Norway took the first two spots on the list, with New Zealand in fifth.
Emerging economies such as Brazil, South Africa, India and China were all further down the list, with internet access for the masses still an issue. China ranked at number 57, mainly due to its strict censorship and surveillance.
Issues such as gender equality and education remain an issue for the World Wide Web Foundation, which criticised world leaders for not taking more action.
Anne Jellema, chief executive of the World Wide Web Foundation, said: "Ten years after world leaders committed to harnessing technology to build an inclusive information society, parents in 48 percent of countries can't use the web to compare school performance and budgets, women in over 60 percent of countries can't use the web to help them make informed choices about their bodies, and over half the population in developing countries can't use the web at all.
"Countries should accelerate action to make the web affordable, accessible and relevant to all groups in society, as they promised at the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003."
Berners-Lee will be joined today in London by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to discuss the report's findings.
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