Digital scholarship blog

11 June 2015

My Digital Rights: Where are we now?

This is a guest post by Sarah Shaw, the Magna Carta: My Digital Rights Project Manager:

A couple of months ago I blogged about Magna Carta: My Digital Rights, an innovative learning resource developed to get young people talking about digital rights and responsibilities. The plan was to give students the tools to enable them to debate topics such as the Web as a human right, government surveillance and cyberbullying and we’ve had a fantastic response.

We’re now over 500 clauses richer and a lot wiser about how young people want the World Wide Web to be used and managed in years to come.


A student debating as part of the British Library's Magna Carta: My Digital Rights project

The clauses tackle a variety of concerns, but safety online was paramount, with over half of our clauses discussing safety. Internet safety is now a statutory part of the curriculum with every child being taught about staying safe on the Web –in the same way that they are taught about how to safely cross the road and not to talk to strangers. But with the world at a mouse click away, is this possible in today’s world? One young person called for people to protect them online, but not hold them back. Others sought government surveillance and online watchdogs to keep everyone safe, not just children. The ability to report bullies and criminals is high up on the wish list for the Web of the future, a parallel for our wishes in the real world. “Safe”, “secure”, and “block” are words that crop up time and time again.

The call for online safety also captures concerns regarding troubling activity around online grooming from terror groups. It’s not surprising that following on from the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris and the rise of IS that some of the clauses call for the Web to be free from extremism and propaganda material. These young people want to feel safe and protected, to be kept away from the troubling images and rhetoric that have caused such torment in recent months; in our analysis, safety was an issue discussed by around half of our participants.

Other clauses are more philosophical calling for the Web to “take into account the era we live in and the things that children already see outside of school, with or without censorship”. It’s sad but true, many young people are already exposed to bullying and disturbing images in the ‘real world’, so why should the Web be any different?


YouTube video: Building a Magna Carta for the digital age

We’ve now turned the discussion over to the wider public and until 15June anyone can visit our site and vote for their favourite clauses. I’m really intrigued to see how their thoughts align with those of the young people who co-created this Magna Carta for the digital age. Since launching three days ago, over 26,000 votes have been cast and our Top 10 is constantly evolving. At the time of writing, the most popular clauses focus on reducing government surveillance and protecting freedom of speech online, but this could change in an instant.

So please, visit now, start voting and see if your favourite clause makes it to our Top 10 which will be captured on 15 June, the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.


Top ten

  The Top 10 on 11 June 2015




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