The World Wide Web Foundation has announced the launch of "a global plan of action to make [the] online world safe and empowering for everyone" and to protect the World Wide Web as a force for good.
Created by representatives of more than eighty organizations from the public, private, and civil society sectors, the Contract for the Web outlines a series of steps governments, companies, and citizens can take to prevent the deliberate misuse of the Web and personal data. To that end, it lays out seventy-six clauses organized into nine principles: governments must ensure that everyone can connect to the Internet, ensure that it is available all the time, and respect and protect people's fundamental online privacy and data rights; companies must make the Internet affordable and accessible to everyone, respect and protect people's privacy and personal data, and develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst; and citizens must be creators and collaborators on the Web, build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity, and fight for the Web.
Led by the World Wide Web Foundation, the initiative is backed by more than a hundred and sixty companies and nonprofit organizations, including Microsoft, Google, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, DuckDuckGo, CIPESA, Access Now, Reddit, Facebook, Reporters Without Borders, and Ranking Digital Rights. Individuals and organizations can endorse the contract on a dedicated website created for that purpose.
"Communities are being ripped apart as prejudice, hate and disinformation are peddled online....The use of targeted political ads in the United States' 2020 presidential campaign and in elections elsewhere threatens once again to undermine voters' understanding and choices," wrote Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web and a co-founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, in an op-ed in the New York Times. "The [W]eb needs radical intervention from all those who have power over its future: governments that can legislate and regulate; companies that design products; civil society groups and activists who hold the powerful to account; and every single [W]eb user who interacts with others online."
"The power of the [W]eb to transform people's lives, enrich society, and reduce inequality is one of the defining opportunities of our time," said Berners-Lee in a statement. "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."