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What would the Magna Carta look like if it were written for the digital age?

To celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, the British Library has created the Magna Carta: My Digital Rights project to examine what people think about in the issues of freedom and control in the digital age.  The public can vote on their favourite clauses and on Monday 15 June, Magna Carta Day, the library will publish the results in the form of a ‘Magna Carta for the digital age’.

Magna Carta for the digital age

The project began with asking 3000 students (ages 10 to 18) from around the world to take part in debates and workshops to consider a range of digital topics from cyberbullying to surveillance and written their own ‘clauses’ in response. Since January the Library has received over 500 clauses from schoolchildren relating to freedom, privacy and access.
The clauses from students are striking: rather than a call for freedom or openness half of the submissions reveal a marked concern about safety and security online. They include ideas such as:

  • The web we want will be safe and secure and have the ability to block and report malicious activities
  • The web we want will allow freedom of speech but discourage bullying
  • The web we want will not let companies pay to control it, and not let governments restrict our right to information
  • The web we want will be private and not allow the government to see what we do online
  • The web we want will be untraceable to strangers
  • The web we want will be protective of all people
  • The web we want will be a human right

Analysis shows students who participated in workshops leaning towards safety, protecting young people and preventing bullying on the Web, over freedom of speech or freedom of the internet (29% compared to 17%).

Launched with BBC Radio 1 earlier this year as part of the BBC’s Taking Liberties season, the project has been jointly conceived by the British Library, World Wide Web Foundation, Southbank Centre and British Council.

“Prompted by the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the My Digital Rights project has provoked lively and timely discussions in classrooms around the UK and beyond,” says Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library. “The results provide a fascinating perspective on how young people feel and talk about their lives on the internet.”

The public can now vote for their favourite clauses on the My Digital Rights website until Monday 15 June, Magna Carta Day, when we will unveil the ‘Top 10’ clauses that emerge.

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