Sir Tim Berners-Lee laid out a global plan and call for action on Monday designed to protect the future of the web and prevent humankind from descending into a digital dystopia. The plan was drawn up together with governments, businesses and citizens over the course of the past year, after father of the web Berners-Lee first announced it .
The aim of the "Contract for the Web" is to prevent the growth of and tame the worst aspects of the web so as to strengthen and protect it for generations to come. Just as writing the contract has been an open-source process with all of the web's stakeholders feeding into it, it is designed to be upheld in equal part by companies, politicians and everyday internet users around the world.
"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 Berners-Lee in a statement. "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."
The contract centers around nine key principles that broadly encompass many of the problems affecting the web, fromto . These are further divided into three sets of responsibilities to be assumed by governments, companies and citizens respectively. They are as follows:
- Ensuring everyone can connect to the web
- Keeping the internet available to everyone all of the time
- Respecting and protecting people's rights to online privacy and data protection
- Making the internet affordable and accessible to everyone
- Respecting and protecting people's privacy and personal data
- Developing technologies that encourage the best in humanity and challenge the worst
- To be creators and collaborators of the web
- Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity
- Fight for the web to remain open
It might seem like there is some repetition in these principles, but the difference lies in the way they will be upheld. Take rights to privacy and data protection, for instance: For governments to respect and protect these means setting out regulations and monitoring for abuse, as well as ensuring activity carried out in the name of fighting crime or protecting national security is proportionate. But for companies to respect and protect data rights and privacy, it could mean changing tools, features and policies built into their business models.
Other principles, such as what it means to be a creator and collaborator or develop technologies that are good for humanity are more open to interpretation and debate. But encouraging people to think about what they mean is a key part of what Berners-Lee wants. "It's up to all of us to fight for the web we want," he said.