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Nov-30-2013 19:06printcomments

Online Freedom Under Threat

I hope we will use the Net to cross barriers and connect cultures.--Tim Berners-Lee

British inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee

(MANAMA, Bahrain) - On November 23rd, 2013, British inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, warned that "Internet surveillance by British and US spying agencies has posed a threat to online freedom and the future of democracy."

Describing the activities by the US and UK spying agencies as “dysfunctional and unaccountable,” Berners-Lee spoke of the importance of protecting whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden.

If you started using the internet within the last 20 years, you probably haven't heard much about Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the World Wide Web.

In March 1989, Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal to his boss at CERN for a new kind of “information management” system. His boss called it “vague but interesting,”

According to the Internet hall of fame (IHF), over the next few years, the proposal spawned the Hypertext Transfer Protocol — HTTP, the basis for the World Wide Web.

"The major concern is always that some large organization gets to control the net, whether it’s a country or a corporation,” Berners-Lee says.

“But over the last few years, the public in general have become much more aware of this issue. I used to feel I was alone in a void saying: ‘You have to make sure no one controls the internet.’ But not anymore.”

The activity on the internet that depends on the web we now take for granted. One can't help wondering what the internet would be like today without Microsoft or Apple software dependence on the web.

The web has taken the use of the internet from plain black and white text to an impressive mixture of graphics and text. The web enables users to find documents on the internet that contain a variety of formats, not only photos and graphics, but also audio and video.

Because the Web is so convenient for one to get the information one wants, it has become an indispensable friend to many users.

We can use it to connect every single person on Earth, giving people the ability, as users and contributors, to improve their lives and communities.

Think of the search tools, like Yahoo and Google, and the video programs as well as the social networking attraction of millions of users.

Berners-Lee's invention has advanced the means and tools of communication more than anything since the invention of the Gutenberg press.

Comments from Tim Berners-Lee that reflect some of his distinctive thoughts about the web provide a worthy tribute:

    In many ways, people growing up with the Web...

    take the power at their fingertips for granted.

    There was a time when people felt the internet was another world, but now people realise it's a tool that we use in this world.

    When something is such a creative medium as the web, the limits to it are our imagination.

    The amount of control you have over somebody if you can monitor internet activity is amazing.

    I've had thank-you emails from people whose lives have been saved by information on a medical website or who have found the love of their life on a dating website.

    The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.

Without doubt, the Berners-Lee invention of the World Wide Web was the most consequential development in human communication since Gutenberg invented the Printing Press almost 600 years ago. Let’s keep it free.



Throughout his life as an educator, Dr. Paul J. Balles, a retired American university professor and freelance writer, has lived and worked in the Middle East for 40 years - first as an English professor (Universities of Kuwait and Bahrain), and for the past ten years as a writer, editor and editorial consultant.

He’s a weekly Op-Ed columnist for the GULF DAILY NEWS . Dr. Balles is also Editorial Consultant for Red House Marketing and a regular contributor to Bahrain This Month. He writes a weekly op-ed column for Akbar Al Khaleej (Arabic). He has also edited seven websites, including,

Paul has had more than 350 articles published, focusing on companies, personality profiles, entrpreneurs, women achievers, journalists and the media, the Middle East, American politics, the Internet and the Web, consumer reports, Arabs, diplomats, dining out and travel. Paul's articles on are frank and enlightening. We are very appreciative of the incredible writings Dr. Balles has generated for our readers over the years, and we are very pleased to list him among our most valued contributors.

Indulging the hard subjects that keep the world divided is our specialty at, and with writers like Dr. Paul Balles on our team, we amplify our ability to meet challenges and someday, will see the effects of this exist in context with a more peaceful and generally successful world.


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Anonymous December 2, 2013 11:51 am (Pacific time)

I saw that interview. Makes no difference though on what he had said. But I give that guy credit, he had balls. Anyone (under new internet laws) will have his ass scrutinized, by various agencies.

I am amazed the "Anonymous" did not back him up on this.

The online anti-terrorist laws that have been enforced for the past few years; have taken away anyone’s rights. Even more so app and software development companies, that specializes on privacy laws.

Apple now, are on the forefront of this new law (it was PC before), that have now sold themselves to all agencies; from America, to Europe , mostly the UK(open encryption keys, middle man interventions).

There is now a huge witch-hunt (clamp down) on such people, that defend this story, through app developments; that are now getting kicked off apples app site.

Apples email contains this excuse: " fraudulent or misleading” in their emails, as an excuse to terminate such apps.

So far the only country that has successfully beaten Apple on such claims have been Germany (legal cases).

Most security related apps now, are swinging towards Switzerland, to cover their backs. They are not part of the European laws or the United States; And unlike there offshore banks , their laws pertaining such apps are more bullet proof .

Silent circle / text / ishredder / lavabit/ hushmail/ tor / chatsecure/ Bitdefender (they got kicked off for showing how much private info is being re-laid back to Apple with out the owners prior consent; including GPS ); or anything that relates to OTR; and so on. They are all on the firing-line .

Because of this, a major backing called the "guardian project" has been created (sadly, they only seem to be interested in Android apps ) .
So far no one has taken on, or challenged such a group , that values peoples online freedom . Maybe this is the way forward in promoting your values , freedom, and privacy.

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