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Inventor of world wide web wants contract to make the internet safe

07 November 2018

English scientist Tim Berners-Lee from the Web Foundation addresses the opening ceremony of the 2018 edition of the annual Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, November 5, 2018.

Sir Tim, who invented the World Wide Web in 1989, called for a "revolution" in how the internet is regulated and monetised in order to stem abuse, political polarisation and fake news.

"For many years there was a feeling that the wonderful things on the web were going to dominate and we'd have a world with less conflict, more understanding, more and better science, and good democracy".

"Tim Berners-Lee has pinpointed one of the great human rights issues of our time and his proposal deserves worldwide support."
"If you are a social networking company you make sure that (...) you allow people to control their data", he said in an interview ahead of the launch.

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Employees of Google, Facebook and other tech giants have in recent months gone public with their regrets, calling the products they helped build harmful to society and overly addictive.

As such, Berners-Lee, with backing from industry, politicians and governments, has this week launched a new Contract for the Web.

Roya Mahboob, founder of the Afghan Girls Robotics Club, said: "The contract for the web comes at a ideal time for women and girls around the world to speak truth to power, call out injustice and seize new opportunities".

You can access the full list by clicking the link but they include the French government, Access Now, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Internet Sans Frontières, Project Isizwe and the NewNow, and a slew of powerful companies that include Google, AnchorFree, Cloudflare and Facebook. The two firms collectively control over three-quarters of all internet traffic through their apps, such as YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram. He claims it is the government's responsibility to see that all citizens have internet access. "They don't want people to look back and say theirs was the platform that misled people to vote against their own best interests", he said.

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The Web Foundation said the majority of people not online live in poor countries and it criticised the fact that "billions of people" access the internet "through a small handful of huge companies". They're meant to ensure a free and open web for all, but some concerns have been raised as to their currently-vague nature. For example, one principle holds that companies "respect consumers' privacy and personal data", which is a very noble goal that I wholeheartedly support - but one that's extremely hard to quantify and thus extremely tricky from a legal point of view.

Still, there is hope in sight. The initiative has been joined by over 50 high-profile partners - including Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, alongside those listed earlier - who have signed the contract.

So what is your take on the issue?

But at the same time, Berners-Lee's warnings do have weight.

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Personal data isn't as valuable to companies as one might expect, he added.

Inventor of world wide web wants contract to make the internet safe