Ireland ranked 20th out of 86 in Web Index

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has called on social networks to do more to tackle gender inequality online.

Ireland ranked 20th out of 86 in Web Index

A measure of the World Wide Web's contribution to social, economic and political progress has ranked Ireland 20th out of 86 countries around the world.

The Web index is produced by the World Wide Web Foundation, the organisation founded by the inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee.

The index gives Ireland a total value of 78 out of a maximum of 100. In the various categories, Ireland scores 87 for universal access, 70 for relevant content and 83 for freedom and openness, and 58 for empowerment.

The index is topped by Denmark, followed in second place by Finland and in third by Norway.

Mr Berners-Lee has called on social networks to do more to tackle gender inequality online.

Speaking at the launch of a report looking into the social impact of the web, Sir Tim said the promotion of controversial ideas was fuelling a rise in gender-based violence.

“When you look at Twitter, people tend to retweet things which are more extreme”, he said. “You don’t see people retweeting things that are a really balanced opinion. Twitter is an environment that is emotionally charged.”

He also called on more accountability be put in place for those who express such views.

Equal rights campaigners have been threatened on Twitter with violence and sexual assault in the past, while Olympian Jessica Ennis-Hill received rape threats after suggesting she would end her association with Sheffield United if the football club re-signed convicted rapist Ched Evans.

New figures released by the computer scientist’s foundation show that in more than 70% of countries surveyed, users felt law enforcement agencies and the courts were failing to take appropriate action when the web is part of the violence.

A study of female Twitter users aged 18-24 in the US found that 25% had been the target of online sexual harassment. Another report into misogyny on Twitter found more than six million uses of the words “slut” and “whore” over a six week period, with an estimated 20% of these uses being judged as threatening.

World Wide Web Foundation chief executive Anna Jellema, speaking alongside Sir Tim added: “Social networks have an enormous power to amplify voices, and some of those voices are misogynistic. It’s not just that the web reproduces trends that you find online, it can accelerate and intensify them, and sometimes that can be very transformative in a good way but also in a way that can be negative, and that’s what we’re seeing with social networks.

“it hasn’t become the issue it needs to with online service providers or governments; they have a tendency to ignore or turn a blind eye to gender-based violence online and we think the answer is not rush to pass laws to clamp down on things that end up stifling freedom of expression, but we do need well considered legislation and also policies from social networks and online service providers.”

Speaking at the publishing of the Web Index, a report by the World Wide Web Foundation – a charity created by Sir Tim to improve life online, he said: “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.”

“There’s a real risk that if we don’t take action now, technology will begin to exacerbate the rising inequalities that we see in the world today and that would be a tragedy because the web has so much potential to act as a leveller and to create opportunity”, added Ms Jellema.

The report measures the web’s contribution to society around the world, with users in 86 countries surveyed and their countries then scored and ranked based on the freedom and openness of access, as well as the ability citizens have to freely express themselves on social, economic and political issues.

It also found that online action was increasingly leading to offline change, with campaigns and movements that begin online having greater impact on the streets than ever before, but net neutrality remains an issue alongside gender-based violence.

Five key findings were outlined in the report, with the World Wide Web Foundation labelling the web as “less free and more unequal”.

Ms Jellema said: “Over four billion people around the world still can’t get online, largely due to high costs. But, for those who are online, another 1.8 billion of web users live in countries that severely restrict their rights online, so for those people they are unable to enjoy the full benefits of a free, open and empowering web.”

The Web Index also reported that users are at increasing risk of government surveillance, with laws stopping snooping either weak or non-existent in 84% of countries surveyed, up from 63% in 2013. Censorship was also regarded as being on the rise, with moderate or extensive censorship seen in 38% of countries, up from 32% last year.

Sir Tim said that as this year marks the 25th anniversary of the world wide web, it felt right that this should be the time to promote what has been labelled a magna carta for web users, and how it should be introduced globally, outlining and protecting the rights of those online.

“In an increasingly unequal world the web can be a great leveller – but only if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access and net neutrality into the rules of the game”, he said.

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