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Internet creator outlines plan to protect the web

Tim Berners-Lee's new ‘contract for the web’ contains commitments that would help prevent web misuse

Photo (c) dusanpetkovic - Getty Images
Inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, has unveiled a plan to prevent the web from continuing on its path to becoming what he calls a “digital dystopia.” 

Acting on concerns that the web has become a breeding ground for misinformation, privacy violations, and political manipulation, Berners-Lee formed a non-profit campaign group called the World Wide Web Foundation. 

The World Wide Web Foundation, through which Berners-Lee has released a global action plan called the “contract for the web,” has already garnered the support of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and more than 150 organizations.

Berners-Lee says the help of governments, companies, and citizens is needed now to keep the web from becoming a place of harmful content rather than a benefit to humanity. 

“The power of the web to transform people’s lives, enrich society and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time,” he said. “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.” 

Key elements of the contract

The contract asks companies to respect consumers’ data privacy and urges governments to ensure that everyone is able to get online and access all of the internet, according to its website. Additional commitments to help protect the web include: 

  • Web users should have access to any data held on them.

  • Users should be able to object to data being held.

  • Users should be able to prevent their data being processes.

  • The Internet should be affordable.

  • Web services be accessible.

“The web was designed to bring people together and make knowledge freely available. Everyone has a role to play to ensure the web serves the public good,” the website says.

Berners-Lee is set to attend a four-day UN Internet Governance Forum in Berlin on Monday. Ahead of the event, he tweeted that failing to take immediate action in defending “the free and open web” puts the web at risk of becoming a “digital dystopia of entrenched inequality and abuse of rights."

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