This blog was written by Emily Sharpe, Director of Policy at the Web Foundation. Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCSharpe.
The web’s power to be a force for good is under threat, and we are all grappling for the right solutions. Governments struggle to pass laws that keep pace with fast-changing technology. Companies promise to respect users’ rights, but then make decisions that prioritize short-term profit and harm consumers and society. Our human rights are at risk.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the power to overcome these threats and fight for the web we want — but only if we roll up our sleeves and get to work creating tangible solutions that can forge real change.
Here at the Web Foundation, we’re taking up this challenge. Over the past year, we’ve convened a coalition of experts from governments, companies and civil society to build the Contract for the Web — a global plan of action to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone.
This exciting moment demonstrates that we — and hundreds of other organizations who support the Contract — believe that solutions are possible. In laying out our collective vision for the web we want, and setting behavioral norms for governments, companies and citizens, the Contract represents our commitment to the dedicated efforts these solutions will require.
We celebrate today’s launch as a crucial milestone. But it is only the first step towards our ultimate goal: a world where all people across the globe are able to use the web to learn, communicate and collaborate, free from fear of abuse, privacy violations and disinformation.
Going forward, we will continue to fight for the web we want through our work in three important areas, using the Contract as our starting point.
1. Building concrete solutions to support the broad ideals set out in the Contract
In its 9 principles and 76 clauses, the Contract sets the model for the web we want. Now, we must turn to the work of building concrete solutions to support these goals.
To do this, we will once again convene experts to develop specific, evidence-based solutions to the problems facing the web — solutions such as the 1 for 2 affordability target developed by the Alliance for Affordable Internet, an initiative of the Web Foundation, and adopted by the United Nations.
We will also champion our fellow civil society organizations undertaking important work on specific issues — such as Reporters Without Borders’ Forum on Information and Democracy, which will address new challenges brought by technological disruptions by issuing recommendations for the regulation of information and communication.
Ultimately, as both convenors and champions, the Web Foundation will work to define the concrete and measurable standards that will help us achieve the web we want.
2. Advocating for the web we want
We will not realize the web we want without the commitment of governments and companies. To do this, we’ll use the Contract as a framework for our advocacy efforts, in partnership with our fellow civil society organizations.
For example, as a member of Access Now’s #KeepItOn coalition, we will fight against internet shutdowns that violate Principle 2 of the Contract. We will urge governments to adopt digital policies that increase women’s internet access and digital literacy (Principle 1), pass strong privacy laws (Principle 3) and develop mechanisms to ensure meaningful transparency for political advertising (Principle 2).
We will also call on companies to assess and address the risks posed by their technologies and products — and show us the work that went into their decision-making by publishing regular human rights impact assessments and transparency reports (Principle 6). We’ll urge companies to provide easily-accessible control panels where users can manage their data and privacy options, and to invest in research to combat “dark design patterns.” (Principle 5).
3. Ensuring measurement and accountability of the Contract’s clauses
Companies and governments that endorse the Contract commit to supporting the initiative, promoting its objectives, and upholding its principles and clauses. We will hold endorsers accountable in a number of ways.
First, to keep their status as a backer of the Contract for the Web, endorsers must demonstrate they are taking action to implement the Contract’s standards and stay actively involved in developing concrete solutions. Endorsers who fail to make serious progress towards the Contract goals will be removed as endorsers.
Second, we will work with other partners to track progress of stakeholders’ commitments. We’ll also rely on the authority and expertise of regulators around the world to hold companies accountable for complying with existing laws that support the Contract’s goals.
Finally, we and the hundreds of organizations campaigning on these issues can use the Contract as a tool to keep up the pressure on governments and companies, both publicly and behind the scenes.
Today’s launch of the Contract for the Web is only the beginning of our fight for the web we want. We invite you to join this fight by backing the Contract. We look forward to working together in the weeks and months to come — the future of the web depends on it.
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