The creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has launched a plan to combat what he describes as an emerging “digital dystopia” called the Contract for the Web.
Developed with assistance from more than 80 experts across a host of sectors, the Contract for the Web is a set of standards designed to protect data privacy and reduce online hate and harassment.
Governments, organisations and individuals are encouraged to sign up to it, with different groups expected to adhere to different principles.
Governments are asked to commit to ensuring all their citizens can access the internet in its entirety, while ensuring online privacy and data rights are protected.
Organisations, meanwhile, are asked to commit to ensuring that the internet is affordable and accessible to all; respect people’s privacy and personal data and develop technologies “that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst”.
Citizens, meanwhile, are asked to commit to fighting for the web, being creators and collaborators on it and building strong communities that “respect civil discourse and human dignity”.
The Contract for the Web has already been signed up to by Germany, France and Ghana, and has also received backing from a host of companies, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Reddit and GitHub.
The problems targeted by the Contract for the Web
Berners-Lee has launched the Contract for the Web in a bid to combat growing problems with digital rights and privacy online.
In particular, the organisation points to issues such as online fake news and misinformation; mishandling of personal data; online bullying and a lack of equal access as key problems it wants to combat.
“The power of the web to transform people’s lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time,” said Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
“But if we don’t act now — and act together — to prevent the web being misused by those who want to exploit, divide and undermine, we are at risk of squandering that potential.”
However, while the Contract for the Web contains solutions, it will only work if companies and governments commit to it – a potential challenge given that many nations currently engage in behaviours that go against the contract’s pledges.
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The UK, for example, automatically blocks some content from UK citizens, while the Trump administration in the US has actively rejected net neutrality.
Nevertheless, Berners-Lee believes the contract has potential to enact real change.
“The Contract for the Web gives us a roadmap to build a better web. But it will not happen unless we all commit to the challenge,” he said.
“Governments need to strengthen laws and regulations for the digital age. Companies must do more to ensure pursuit of profit is not at the expense of human rights and democracy. And citizens must hold those in power accountable, demand their digital rights be respected and help foster healthy conversation online.
“It’s up to all of us to fight for the web we want.”