On the morning of November 25th, Beijing time, according tomedia reports, “Father of the World Wide Web” Tim Berners-Lee recently launched a global action plan to save the Internet from political manipulation, fake news, privacy violations and other fears that the world is plunged into a “digital dystopia” malicious forces, etc.
The Web Compact requires governments, companies, and individuals who sign the contract to make specific commitments to protect the Internet from abuse and to ensure that it always benefits humanity.
“I think there’s reason for growing concern about the bad things that’s happening on the Internet, ” says Berners Lee, the internet inventor. ” If we don’t turn the tide, it may be a digital dystopia that waits for us. That’s not to say we need a 10-year plan for the Internet, we need to act now. “
The web contract has been studied by 80 organizations for more than a year. The compact sets out nine central principles for the protection of the Internet, three of which are aimed at governments, corporations and individuals.
The documents, released by Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation, have been obtained by companies such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook and digital rights groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation foundation) and more than 150 other organizations. As of the time of writing, Amazon and Twitter had not signed a contract.
Governments, companies and individuals supporting the compact must demonstrate that they are implementing the principles set out in the compact and are committed to solving the more difficult problems, or risk being removed from the list of signatories. If the provisions are properly enforced, the qualifications of some signatories may not be retained for long. A report by Amnesty International accused Google and Facebook of “causing massive human rights harm.” The report comes just weeks after Google was accused of obtaining personal health records for 50 million Americans without users’ consent.
The principles set out in the compact require the government to make every effort to ensure that everyone who wants access to the Internet has access to the Internet and that their privacy is protected. People should have access to their personal data and the right to refuse or revoke the processing of such private data.
Further principles require companies to make the Internet accessible and to develop web services for people with disabilities and users of small languages. To build online trust, companies must simplify privacy settings by providing a comprehensive dashboard that makes it easy for people to access their data and manage privacy options.
Another principle is that companies must diversify their workforce, consult a broad community before and after the launch of a new product, and assess the risk stoic that their technology disseminates misleading information or harms people’s behavior or personal well-being.
There are three other principles that are personal, require individuals to create rich and relevant content, to promote the Internet as a valuable place, to build a strong online community where everyone feels safe and friendly, and ultimately to fight for the Internet, so that the Internet is open to everyone and everywhere.
“The power to push the internet in the wrong direction has been very strong, ” says Mr Berners-Lee. Whether you’re a company or a government, controlling the network is a way to make huge gains or retain power. People are an important part of the Internet, only people have the motivation to demand that companies and governments assume their responsibilities. “
Emily Sharpe, policy director at the Internet Foundation, said: “The power of the Internet to be good is under threat and people are eager for change. We are determined to use the framework set out in the contract to shape the discussion. “
“Ultimately, we need to protect our Internet with a global force like the environment so that governments and companies can really take more responsibility for all citizens.” The compact will lay the foundation for this global power. “
Here’s the full text from Sir Tim Berners-Lee:
My parents are mathematicians. My mother helped write one of the first storage program computers, Manchester Mark 1. They taught me that when you program your computer, it is only your imagination that limits your abilities. This interest in experimentation and change helped me build the World Wide Web.
I had hoped that, three decades after the creation of the World Wide Web, we would still be able to use the Web to serve humanity as our primary goal. Projects such as Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap, as well as the open source software world, are constructive tools that I hope to be born out of the Internet.
The reality, however, is more complex. Communities are falling apart because of the prejudices, hatreds and disinformation that spread online. Fraudsters use the Internet to steal identity information, stalkers use the internet to harass and intimidate victims, and saboteurs use clever digital techniques to disrupt democracy. In the 2020 U.S. presidential election and elsewhere, political ads have once again threatened to undermine voters’ understanding and choice.
We are at a turning point. How we deal with this misuse of the Web will determine whether the network can fulfil its potential as a global public good, or whether it will lead us into a digital dystopian world.
All those with the power to influence the future of the network now require their thorough intervention: laws and regulated governments; companies that design products: civil society groups and campaign organizations that have the authority to account; and every network user who interacts with others on the web.
We must overcome the deadlocks we have faced in the past in solving the problems of the network. The government must stop blaming platform inaction, and companies must be more constructive in setting future regulations , not just objecting.
I’m going to introduce a new way to overcome these impasses – the network contract.
The Web Compact is a global action plan developed over the past few years by activists, academics, businesses, governments, and citizens around the world to ensure that our online world is safe, empowered and friendly to all.
The compact outlines measures to prevent intentional misuse of the Web and our information. For example, the compact calls on governments to publish public data registries so that they can no longer cover up the way governments process citizen data from their citizens. If the government shares our data with private companies – or buys a list of data brokers from private companies – we have a right to know and act.
The contract also sets out ways to improve system design to eliminate incentives for reward baiting or walking false information. Political advertising empowers political parties to disrupt discussion. We need platforms to open their black boxes and clearly explain how they will minimize or eliminate the risk of their products posing a threat to society. I believe that the Government should immediately ban political advertising in order to restore our trust in public discourse.
Crucially, the compact also includes specific actions to address the negative, if unintentional, consequences of platform design. For example, why do women on fitness apps worry that their exact jogging routes are shared with other users by default? Perhaps the people who designed the app did not take women’s safety needs into account. Our technology industry requires a large number of diverse employees to ensure that their products serve a wide range of groups. Companies should also issue reports that clearly demonstrate that they are indeed working toward achieving these diversity goals.
To make the online world a place worth staying for, all of us should pick up the web contract and fight for the Internet we want.
Governments must support their online citizens and ensure that their rights are adequately protected through effective regulations and enforcement. Companies must put aside their next quarter’s results and understand that long-term success means developing products that are socially beneficial and that people are willing to trust.
There are already strong alliances that are supporting our contract. National governments such as France, Germany and Ghana have signed the principle of contract. Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Reddit have joined other experts, such as search engine DuckDuckGo, in committing to action. Many civil society organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders and AccessNow, as well as individuals, have joined the growing movement.
After the signing of the compact, the Government and the company committed themselves to taking concrete action on several issues. Some changes can take a long time: we don’t expect them to happen overnight. But we will watch their efforts, and if they fail to make progress, they will be disqualified as signatories to the contract.
Compacts have been used to inform policy decisions as a best practice guide for government and corporate executives to help civil society advocate for change, measure progress and hold governments and companies accountable.
These alone are far from enough. Our Internet Foundation, along with its global partners, is committed to mobilizing people around the world. As the election approaches, please appeal these questions to your political representatives and candidates. The best way to change the priorities and actions of those in power is to speak out.
Join our foundation and work with our partners and people around the world to fight for the Internet.