World Wide Web Inventor Calls for Protection of Whistleblowers

In the wake of the NSA leaks scandal, Tim Berners-Lee tells the Abu Dhabi Media Summit that "the systems of accountability have failed."

ABU DHABI – Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has called for the protection of whistleblowers in the wake of the NSA leaks scandal.

Speaking on the first day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Berners-Lee said that the system of accountability had failed and that society had to rely on whistleblowers.

“Whenever you have a police force, which has strong powers of any sort, you have to have an agency which has the power to hold them accountable," he told the summit Tuesday in a video conference from the U.S. "If we have guards, we need to have guards that guard them. And the guards of the guards must be responsible to the public.” Such a system has yet to be set up, he said.

“But in the meantime, systems in the U.S. and U.K., for example, have not been good enough," Berners-Lee argued. "The systems of accountability have failed. And when that happens, there is only one group that protects us from this abuse, the abuse by the people in powerful positions. That group is the whistleblowers.”

Berners-Lee qualified a whistleblower as someone who had tried every other means to get a point across, was convinced that what they were doing was in the interest of the human race and had gone about it in a responsible way, taking the information to the press and discussing with media representatives how to release it to minimize harm and maximize good.

“Then I think society has to come around internationally and say, ‘no, you qualify as a whistleblower, you need special protection,' even though you have clearly violated laws," Berners-Lee said. "Because at the end of the day, any system which we try to put together with however much goodwill, we can’t trust that it won’t end up going astray. So we have to rely on the whistleblower.”

The annual three-day media summit is held in the capital of the United Arab Emirates capital.