Launching the Contract for the Web

23rd November 2019 | Blog of

Last year, the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, called for governments, companies and citizens from across the world to take action to protect the web as a force for good.

Today, we stand together to launch the result of that call: a new Contract for the Web.

Experts and citizens have come together — bringing a diverse range of experiences and perspectives — to build a global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone.

Launching the Contract, Sir Tim 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.

At this pivotal moment for the web, we have a shared responsibility to fight for the web we want. Many of the most vocal campaigners on this issue have already recognised that this collaborative approach is critical.

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 center of the internet.”

The Contract gives us a roadmap — embodied in 76 clauses — to do that. For governments, the Contract requires them to ensure all their citizens can connect to the internet all of the time.

We have seen the damaging effect of internet shutdowns around the world. The Contract makes clear that no one should be denied their right to full access to the web.

For companies, the Contract says they must make connectivity affordable and accessible to everyone, and to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of people online.

To restore trust in the web and its power for good, people must be in control of their lives online, and crucially they must be empowered with clear and meaningful choices around their data and privacy.

The Contract sets out policies and proposals to ensure companies place these considerations front of mind, and that none of their users are excluded from using and shaping the web.

And crucially, we all have a responsibility as web users to create the web that we want. The Contract calls on all citizens to build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity.

Roya Mahboob, NewNow Leader and CEO of 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 The NewNow has taken part in the core group of organisations developing the contract.”

For the first time, we have a shared vision for the web we want and a roadmap for the policies and actions we need to get there. And we have a powerful new tool to hold companies and governments to account — to ensure they’re living up to the commitments they make.

At launch, the Contract for the Web — led by Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation — has the backing of over 160 organisations, including Microsoft, Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation, DuckDuckGo, CIPESA, Access Now, Reddit, Facebook, Reporters Without Borders and Ranking Digital Rights. Thousands of individuals, hundreds of organisations and the governments of Germany, France and Ghana all signed up to the Contract’s founding principles.

The launch of the Contract is just the beginning of our fight for the web we want. But it is a critical milestone. In an era of fear about technology and the future, we must celebrate vehicles for change and a hopeful future.

Thanks to the determination, dedication and drive of all those involved, we now have a Contract for the Web that can drive real change.