Tim Berners-Lee creates his proposal for Web of Information in 1989 resulting in the launch of his unpatented software that allows us to share information and data through the internet in the form of the World Wide Web. However, as seen in the news and documentaries such as The Social Dilemma several problems have arisen since. While Berners-Lee’s original approach of making the use of the internet free to all was done in an act of what I would describe as striving for the freedom of sharing of information and communication we are now all faced with how to generate a virtual democracy that will provide us with guidelines around hate speech and fake news etc.
Tim Berners-Lee is attempting to do just that in the contract for the web, a campaign set out for giving everyone access to the internet and also setting out commitments to guide digital policy agendas. This is broken into 9 primary principles, see below:
Principle 1 Ensure everyone can connect to the internet
Principle 2 Keep all of the internet available, all of the time
Principle 3 Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights
Principle 4 Make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone
Principle 5 Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust
Principle 6 Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst
Principle 7 Be creators and collaborators with the web
Principle 8 Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity
Principle 9 Fight for the web
Find the full outline at https://contractfortheweb.org/
Burners-Lee talks about the contract for the web as being a way for people to get involved in governing the web and setting standards that any company who signs up to the contract will be held to. This is a difficult topic to both understand and navigate which I believe to impact on trust sometimes causing people to jump to the conclusion that contracts such as these may infringe on their rights e.g. free speech. However, having some governing over the web is becoming a very apparent necessity and Berners-Lee’s proposal of the contract for the web appears to me to be a great starting point. I think contracts such as these are a very real necessity and it is becoming clear that large tech companies such as Google and Facebook cannot be allowed to govern themselves.
I think more research is required in this area. However, I am confident that this is an area than many are taking a keen interest in and I am therefore very hopeful that our understanding of how best to navigate and effectively govern the use of the web will be addressed in the not too distant future.