‘Hypocritical’ W3C bans reporters from transparency meeting

CNET News.com has lambasted the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the guardian of the web, after the organisation banned one of its reporters from a meeting to discuss transparency.

The consortium’s Toward Transparent Government workshop convened at the US National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC yesterday to hear a range of ideas for electronic government from speakers including those from the UK’s Office of Public Sector Information, University of Southampton, Ordnance Survey, British e-government agency MySociety and father-of-the-web Tim Berners-Lee.

But News.com reporter Anne Broache was barred from the event, prompting a torrent of complaints from colleague Declan McCullagh, who said the W3C was not living up to its claim to be an “open forum for discussion about the web”.

Chief political correspondent Mr McCullagh, who spent a decade covering technology and politics in DC before joining News.com, grumbled that Ms Broache, along with a rival reporter, was barred despite the event web page stating: “Conversations and results are public.”

The W3C, of which Englishman Mr Berners-Lee is a director, upholds the common production standards that make the web tick. At the workshop, position papers were presented by several bodies including the UK government agencies. But W3C policy director Danny Weitzner explained the workshop was, in fact, closed to the public.

“There was clearly some ambiguity,” Mr McCullagh quoted him as saying. “We recognise that the (call for participation) could have been more clear.

“There are times when in order to have an open exchange of ideas, you need to provide an off-the-record environment, which is what we did.”

News.com previously drew the ire of the web’s other behemoth, Google, two years ago when staff writer Elinor Mills published personal information about site CEO Eric Schmidt she discovered using his own search engine. The story earned News.com a blackout in media co-operation from the Mountain View, California, company that was later dropped.

Mr McCullagh added that the W3C event, which he said was “newsworthy”, was held at a public building financed by taxpayers, adding it was not wise for a standards forum like the consortium to resort to closed meetings. Documents from the workshop are due to be published online and the event continues today.