Published: Wed, November 07, 2018
IT | By Lester Massey

Net pioneer desires new ‘contract’ for web

Net pioneer desires new ‘contract’ for web

The inventor of the World Wide Web, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee on Monday lamented the debasement of the world wide web, since he founded it nearly 30 years ago.

While at the conference, Tim Berners-Lee unveiled a complete set of principles that can help define responsibilities that he hopes, will guide governments, companies and citizens towards creating a better version of the web.

Looking back, we thought if we could keep the web free and open, what could go wrong?

"We have problems with privacy, abuse of personal data, people can be profiled in a way that they can be manipulated by clever ads".

"A lot of companies are finding it so exciting to be able to switch from trying to exploit you, trying to make you buy something you didn't want to buy, to actually switch back to the core business model of helping the user [and] generating value for the user", Berners-Lee told CNN. The foundation estimates that over 1.5 billion people now live in countries which has no concrete laws on personal data protection.

Employees of Google, Facebook, and other tech giants have also voiced similar concerns publicly over the past few months.

We need a new Contract for the Web, with clear and tough responsibilities for those who have the power to make it better.

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

The initiative has already secured backing from over 50 organisations, including the French government, civil society organisations such as Access Now, Internet Sans Frontières, Project Isizwe, NewNow and the Digital Empowerment Foundation, as well as companies including Google, AnchorFree, Facebook and Cloudflare.

The two firms now have direct influence over almost three-quarters of all internet traffic thanks to the vast amounts of apps and services they own such as YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

Freeing constraints " We have big and small players, it's not the United Nations of the digital world, it's a call for voluntary engagement, for those who want to be part of the solution, whether they're part of the problem or not", the foundation's policy director, Nnenna Nwakanma, told AFP.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) being built upon easy, open access to the internet, the possibility of such traffic being throttled or blocked, and related businesses potentially being held to ransom for greater networking fees, introduces great uncertainty.

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". With such support, the Contract may just turn out fine.

Unfortunately, Berners-Lee reveals that it will be hard to see the contract's success. Depending on where you live, you've likely seen your government make some dubious-if-not-outright (far-right?) authoritarian choices in regard to how the Internet works. It's a delicate balancing act, but limiting some freedoms could end up creating a fairer, more open Web.

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