World wide web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned of a “digital dystopia” as he launches a global action plan aimed at tackling misuse of the web.
A new New York Times opinion piece from Berners-Lee outlines an ambitious rule book for online governance — a bill of rights and obligations for the internet — designed to counteract the growing prevalence of such anti-democratic poisons as misinformation, mass surveillance, and censorship.
Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist who submitted his first proposal for an “information management system” in 1989, has reiterated his call for a Contract for the Web, urging governments, companies, and individuals to safeguard it by implementing nine key principles. These proposals, made by Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation, aim to stem the rise of online threats.
“I think people’s fear of bad things happening on the internet is becoming, justifiably, greater and greater,” said Berners-Lee. “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.”
The contract aims to see the entire global population empowered to access the internet at any time, secure the protection of people’s private data, reduce online hate and strengthen community-building.
Berners-Lee said his contract, developed in cooperation with dozens of experts and members of the public, is “a road map to build a better web.” He also called on governments to “strengthen laws and regulations” and companies “to ensure pursuit of profit is not at the expense of human rights and democracy.”
The commitment sets out nine key principles and has already been backed by companies including Google and Facebook, both of which have been at the centre of controversies over the way the internet is used.