The Fluid Society

Contract for the Web

Contract for the web. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet, posted an article in the New York Times on November 24 in which he announced the “Contract for the Web”. His main concern is that the internet, which started very idealistically around 30 years ago, is being abused step by step by criminals, people spreading fake news or deep fakes, organizations and governments trying to steal private data from private individuals for commercial purposes, criminal or intimidating purposes, etc.

What’s in it ? The manifesto revolves around nine principles that governments, companies and citizens should adhere to in order to make the internet the meeting place again for everyone, without personal risks. So as it was once intended.

The three principles for the government are:

1 / ensure everyone can connect to the internet

2 / keep all of the internet available; all of the time

3 / respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights

For companies, the three principles are:

1 / make the internet affordable and accessible to everyone

2 / respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust

3 / develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst

For citizens and consumers:

1 / be creators and collaborators on the web

2 / build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity

3 / fights for the web

150 institutions have signed. A number of American tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft have now signed these principles. Countries such as France and Germany are also signatories in Europe. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a champion for a free, accessible, internet, also supports this movement.

Criticism. There is criticism, among others from Mozilla, that the manifesto is not powerful enough. After all, you can sign the principles, but there are no sanctions for non-compliance. That is all true. Nevertheless, this is a very serious attempt to repair the internet from the misery that everyone is currently experiencing. The manifesto should be followed in legislation of governments, in ethical principles of companies, but especially in the mindset of everyone who uses the internet at the moment.

What now ? What is desirable in Europe is first of all that many more countries than France and Germany sign the manifesto. Because then it may be a “soft” manifesto. It is progress. It gives a direction to a renewed awareness of the value of a free internet that is accessible without risks for every citizen and every organization. That is why IT companies, as well as other companies and organizations, should sign the manifesto. For example, the CIO communities in Europe, the CIO Platform in the Netherlands, should co-sign. I hereby call on every reader of this article to go to the “Contract for the web” website and sign the manifesto.

A Digital Rule of Law. Furthermore, this could ultimately lead to new European or global legislation on the use of the Internet. It is desirable for governments to recognize that the internet is a new form of infrastructure that requires regulation as well as the electricity network, the telecom network or the traffic. The internet is far too important to give cyber criminals and malicious governments free rein. In the fluid society that we are gradually entering, law enforcement is needed on the digital infrastructure, on data files and on data privacy, just like in traditional society. In short, digital ownership. In the digital age there must be an orderly Digital Rule of Law, including an enforcement organization, that operates worldwide. Unfortunately, we will not start to do that seriously until 2038.

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