Johannesburg - In a world where a fake story reaches people faster than a real story, English engineer, computer scientist, and inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, on Monday launched the Contract for the Web - the first-ever global plan to "protect the web as a force for good".
“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," Berners-Lee said in a statement.
He said the global action plan is aimed at halting the increasing misuse of the web and to ensure it is protected as a force for good.
"The Contract for the Web gives us a road map to build a better web. But it will not happen unless we all commit to the challenge."
The contract has seen the backing of leaders from government, businesses, civic groups, as well as global citizens.
Berners-Lee challenged governments and companies to show leadership in addressing the current threats facing the web.
"Governments need to strengthen laws and regulations for the digital age. Companies must do more to ensure [the] pursuit of profit is not at the expense of human rights and democracy. And citizens must hold those in power accountable, demand their digital rights be respected and help foster healthy conversation online," he said.
"It’s up to all of us to fight for the web we want.”
The World Wide Web Foundation said that the Contract for the Web was written by over 80 experts from across sectors, with input from members of the public and sets out "new standards that will help make sure everyone can connect to the internet all of the time, ensure people’s data is protected and reduce online hate by strengthening community-building online".
The contract sets out concrete actions governments, companies and individual citizens can — and must — take to ensure a web that is safe, empowering and for everyone, the foundations said in a statement.
"The failure of global actors to defend the free and open web, he warned, risks a “digital dystopia” of entrenched inequality and abuse of rights. The web has proved one of the most powerful tools we have to change lives for the better," it said.
"However its benefit to humanity is at risk due to a growing digital divide in access to the web and an increasing number of online threats, including election interference, online harassment, threats to privacy and the spread of disinformation."
The contract has been backed by over 150 organisations, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook as well as thousands of individuals, hundreds of organisations and the governments of Germany, France and Ghana.
“This is the first time that such a diverse range of actors, with distinct — often conflicting — interests, have sat down and hammered out minimum standards for the web. We need to see more collaboration like this to drive change in the way that technology is developed, regulated and used," Adrian Lovett, President & CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation said.
"The Contract for the Web is just the beginning — we need a global movement to fight for the web that serves all of humanity.”
Berners-Lee first called for a new Contract for the Web at the Web Summit in Lisbon in 2018, where he published nine founding principles.
The foundation said it was working with partners to develop tools to measure progress on the contract clauses and advocating for policy solutions to ensure the contract’s goals are being met.