Sir Tim Berners-Lee announces a new 'Contract for the Web' at Web Summit in Lisbon

Sir Tim Berners-Lee announces a new Contract for the Web at Web Summit in Lisbon

Nicknamed by many as the ‘Magna Carta for the Web’, the new global campaign launched by the World Wide Web Foundation (set up by Berners-Lee in 2008) has already received support from over 50 organisations including Google and Facebook.

At a Web Summit in Lisbon on Monday 5 November, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the English computer scientist and engineer (renowned for inventing the World Wide Web), outlined his aim for governments, companies and citizens to collectively promote a web that was ‘free, open and safe’ and available to all. The campaign is a welcome response to the succession of scandals involving the misuse of personal data and the rise in trolling, fake news and hate speech. These are issues which affect us all.

In achieving this goal, the World Wide Web Foundation encourages a commitment to ‘central standards’ or ‘principles’ and for people to get involved in refining and developing the principles into a contract.  The contract is to be published in May 2019, the seminal “50/50 moment” when over half the worlds’ population will be online.

The principles are formed as duties to be undertaken at all levels by policy makers as well as organisations and individuals and provide that:

GOVERNMENTS WILL

  • Ensure everyone can connect to the internet so that anyone, no matter who they are or where they live, can participate actively online.
  • Keep all of the internet available, all of the time so that no one is denied their right to full internet access.
  • Respect people’s fundamental right to privacy so everyone can use the internet freely, safely and without fear.

COMPANIES WILL

  • Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone so that no one is excluded from using and shaping the web.
  • Respect consumers’ privacy and personal data so people are in control of their lives online.
  • Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst so the web really is a public good that puts people first.

CITIZENS WILL

  • Be creators and collaborators on the web so the web has rich and relevant content for everyone.
  • Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity so that everyone feels safe and welcome online.
  • Fight for the web so the web remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future.

Whilst the contract is not currently ‘binding’ in nature on its signatories, Berners-Lee hopes that the growth in endorsements will develop a public initiative to ‘speak out’ and challenge use of the web. According to the World Wide Web Foundation, the campaign has already been endorsed by nearly 60 organisations including the French government, Internet Sans Frontières, Project Isizwe, NewNow and the Digital Empowerment Foundation, as well as companies including Google, AnchorFree, Facebook and Cloudflare.

The World Wide Web Foundation plans to publish reports on its website to monitor the progress of the campaign and its support. If successful, this campaign could potentially see further changes to areas of law that surround the use of the internet. 

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