Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, warns that censorship is threatening the future of democracy.
The inventor of the World Wide Web has warned that "a growing tide of surveillance and censorship" threatens the future of democracy, as more people use the internet to "expose wrongdoing".
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who launched the web on Christmas Day 1990, said some governments were "threatened" by this, and said "bold steps" were needed.
"One of the most encouraging findings of this year's Web Index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world,” the 58-year-old British computer scientist said.
"But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy.
"Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online."
Sir Tim was speaking ahead of the announcement of a global league table which classifies countries depending on how well they use the web.
Sweden topped the Web Index league table launched by the World Wide Web Foundation, followed by Norway in second, UK in third and the US in fourth.
Web innovators, experts and policymakers, including Sir Tim and Jimmy Wales, are gathering in London to assess the World Wide Web Foundation's independent annual measure of the web's impact.
The UK, despite falling down on privacy rights, was placed third overall in the Index, propelled by its high scores on availability of relevant content and political impact.
The Web Index Report revealed that beyond the digital divide, the world faces a growing participation divide, as unequal access to knowledge and speech online denies millions the necessary tools for free and informed participation in democracy.
Wealthier groups in most countries were increasingly using the web and social media to gain knowledge and amplify their voice in public debate, the research suggested.
But groups such as low-paid workers, smallholder farmers, and women in the developing world were much less likely to be able to access vital information online.