The web is becoming less free and more unequal as censorship, surveillance and cyber violence undermine what should be an open and equal platform.
These words of warning come from the World Wide Web (WWW) Foundation, overseen by the founder of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, as part of the annual Web Index report looking at key issues affecting web access and use around the world.
The report notes that a staggering 4.3 billion people still have no web access, and that over half of the world's population who can access it live in nations that place tight restrictions on the web’s use, including limiting access to information.
Furthermore, 84 percent of nations have no reasonable laws to protect people from mass surveillance, a highly pertinent subject given the revelations from the Snowden leaks of 2013.
The lack of net neutrality laws is also noted as a cause for concern. Only a quarter of the 86 countries monitored made an effort in 2014 to enforce rules around net neutrality.
In light of all of this, Berners-Lee said that web access must become a human right if it is to be a tool for good in the world.
“It's time to recognise the internet as a basic human right. That means guaranteeing affordable access for all, ensuring internet packets are delivered without commercial or political discrimination, and protecting the privacy and freedom of web users regardless of where they live," he said.
The WWW Foundation said that more must be done to improve web access by accelerating programmes designed to deliver access to remote areas.
Ensuring that web access remains affordable, and does not price the poorest and marginalised in society out, must also be addressed, as an estimated 225 million people face this predicament.
On a country-by-country basis the UK performed well in the report, placing fourth in the world for web access thanks to high scores for universal access (82.99), empowerment (100) and relevant content and use (100).
However, the UK performed less well for freedom and openness (76.25), owing most likely to the revelations from Snowden that the UK has been involved in mass surveillance programmes like Tempora.
The rest of the top five is filled by the Nordic countries of Denmark in first, Finland in second, Norway in third and Sweden in fifth. The bottom ranked country was Ethopia.
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