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Tim Berners-Lee has called for governments, companies and citizens across the world to take action to protect the web as a force for good.
Speaking at the launch of the Contract for the Web, Berners-Lee said: “The power of the web to transform people’s lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time. 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.”
Earlier this year, Berners-Lee called for changes to prevent the web from being exploited maliciously. This has led to the Worldwide Web Foundation developing the Contract for the Web.
The contract has won backing from more than 160 organisations, including Microsoft, Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, DuckDuckGo, CIPESA, Access Now, Reddit, Facebook, Reporters Without Borders and Ranking Digital Rights.
The contract contains nine principles, the first three of which call on governments to protect web freedom.
The first principle recommends that governments ensure that everyone can have affordable internet access of at least 1Gbps by 2025, which should cost no more than 2% of the average monthly wage. The contract also calls for changes to fiscal policies for networking infrastructure and recommends that governments promote policies to encourage passive infrastructure sharing (towers, ducts on roads/rail/power lines), dig-once regulations and non-discriminatory and efficient management of radio spectrum to facilitate access to, and sharing of, spectrum for broadband connectivity.
The second principle concerns uninterrupted internet connectivity and promoting an unrestricted web. The contract urges governments to start “engaging in transparent and documented coordination with private sector actors to ensure that any attempts to restrict access to the internet are necessary and rely on means that are proportionate to achieving a legitimate end, while minimising the unintended side-effects of legitimate actions on third parties”.
The second principle of the contract also recommends that governments support effective enforcement of competition law at all layers of the network. This includes promoting interoperability and open standards, which could enable startups and small innovative organisations to compete with established internet businesses.
The third, fourth and fifth principles of the contract concern companies. Along with the affordability of internet services, the contract urges companies to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of people online.
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Principle five of the contract calls on businesses to provide clear explanations of processes affecting users’ data and privacy and their purpose, and build control panels where users can manage their data and privacy options in a quick and easily accessible place for each user account.
Brett Solomon of Access Now said: “Only through real commitment and concrete action from all members of the internet community – especially governments and companies – will we make the necessary reforms to put people and rights back at the centre of the internet.”
The sixth principle also covers diversity. Roya Mahboob, NewNow leader and CEO of the Digital Citizen Fund, said: “The contract gives us concrete actions to build a web that works for future generations, especially girls and women. Women face a disproportionate set of barriers in accessing education, setting up businesses or working outside the home across the globe. We need to see the web as a pathway to unleash their power. That is why NewNow has taken part in the core group of organisations developing the contract.”
The final three principles of the contract are focused on what consumers should be looking to do to protect the web.