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Building a Magna Carta for the digital age

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When does online banter become cyberbullying? Does the need to keep us safe from criminals and terrorists, also mean that we should lose our right to privacy? Why should it be important for people to remain anonymous online? As digital technology becomes more and more sophisticated, sometimes it feels like we can’t keep up. For each new piece of software, there’s the opportunity for it to be misused, and so for some years now, people have been discussing whether there should be a bill of rights, or a set of rules, that hold our behaviour to account when we’re online.

So, what if you had the chance to have your say about how we should behave when we’re online? What would you want to include in a Magna Carta for the digital age? At the British Library, we’ve joined the debate. Since February 2015, we’ve been asking students from all over the world to debate issues around digital rights and responsibilities, before giving them the opportunity to write a clause for our own crowd-sourced online Magna Carta for the digital age, which is solely based on the opinions of young people aged between 10-18 years old. We’ve had over 500 clauses submitted by students from all over the world. Over half have been sent in from overseas, with countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, the USA, India, Sri Lanka and Costa Rica taking part.

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It’s been really interesting hearing the views and opinions of so many different young people. Creating the learning resources for our website has been really fascinating too: we’ve worked with contributors such as Shami Chakrabarti from the human rights charity, Liberty, as well as Rachel Logan from Amnesty International and Simon Phipps from the Open Rights Group. What’s more, we’ve also had an article written especially for us, by a former director of GCHQ. Hearing from digital activists, human rights lawyers and those in charge of our security services, has really opened our eyes to the huge range of issues and debates to be had about online safety and our own digital rights, as has seeing the range and trends of different clauses that have come in from our school groups.

The deadline for submitting your clause is closed, but our new interactive website launches today. You can now online, explore the different submissions and vote for your favourite clause. On Monday 15 June, Magna Carta Day, we’ll unveil the top ten clauses, voted for by the public.

It doesn’t stop there for Magna Carta: My Digital Rights and we hope that young people and their teachers will continue to use our online resources and carry on the debate. The website holds lots of great ideas to help your class hold their own discussion, and you will be able to use the interactive website to engage with what other people have already said.

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Camilla Mount at the Youth Council's Shout Event earlier this year

To find out more visit:

www.bl.uk/my-digital-rights

www.bl.uk/vote-now

If you are a teacher and want to discuss how you can use this resource in the classroom email us at MagnaCartaSchools@bl.uk

Join the debate on Twitter #MyDigitalRights