Tim Berners-Lee’s plan to ‘save the web’ has been formally launched today and is backed by more than 150 organizations, including Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.

The inventor of the World Wide Web explained back in March his reasons for wanting a ‘contract for the web’…

It’s 30 years today since Tim Berners-Lee submitted a proposal for what would become the World Wide Web [and] said that the 30th anniversary was a time to reflect on both the positives and negatives […]

“I think it’s been a force for good for the first 15 [years], and right now it’s really in the balance. I’m very concerned about nastiness and misinformation spreading. I think with a mid-course correction, the ‘contract for the web’ is about: let’s all stop this downward plunge to a dysfunctional future.”

He proposed nine principles – three from each of governments, companies, and individuals – to help save the web.

Governments will

  • 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

Companies will

  • 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

Citizens will

  • Principle 7 — Be creators and collaborators on the web
  • Principle 8 — Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity
  • Principle 9 — Fight for the web

Berners-Lee told The Guardian that the need for change is urgent.

The forces taking the web in the wrong direction have always been very strong. Whether you’re a company or a government, controlling the web is a way to make huge profits, or a way of ensuring you remain in power. The people are arguably the most important part of this, because it’s only the people who will be motivated to hold the other two to account […]

I think people’s fear of bad things happening on the internet is becoming, justifiably, greater and greater If we leave the web as it is, there’s a very large number of things that will go wrong. We could end up with a digital dystopia if we don’t turn things around. It’s not that we need a 10-year plan for the web, we need to turn the web around now.

Two of the tech giants who endorsed it may struggle to comply.

Those who back the contract must show they are implementing the principles and working on solutions to the tougher problems, or face being removed from the list of endorsers. If the stipulation is properly enforced, some may not last long. A report from Amnesty International accuses Google and Facebook of “enabling human rights harm at a population scale”. The report comes weeks after Google was found to have acquired the personal health records of 50 million Americans without their consent.

You need only glance at most web forums, or the comments sections of articles, to see that a lot of citizens might also need to work at principle 8, respecting civil discourse…

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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