In November 2019, Tim Berners-Lee and the Web Foundation launched the Contract for the Web, a set of rules designed to address the challenges facing digital communication and participation— from threats to online privacy and security to connectivity and digital inclusion. The multi-stakeholder effort outlines nine principles for governments, companies and citizens designed to safeguard the future of the Web.
The Foundation has not yet signed on to the Contract and we’d like to address why.
The Wikimedia Foundation participated in the Core Group and the Working Group on Principle 6, “Developing technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst,” which aims to support positive technology that puts people first. The Contract aligns with our goal to foster a web where everyone can find and access knowledge freely.
We deeply support the principles of the Contract for the Web. At Wikimedia, we are committed to fostering a digital information sphere that is accessible for everyone, that offers strong privacy protections, that supports free expression and open collaboration, and safeguards the web from bad actors that seek to monopolize and use it for harm. All of these principles align closely with the commitments underlined in the Contract for the Web.
We chose not to sign the Contract at this time because we still have open questions about how the Contract will be implemented to maximize its impact. In particular, we are exploring how each signatory will be held accountable to these commitments. We are especially interested in seeing concrete steps towards enforcement mechanisms that ensure big technology companies that endorse the Contract will change their attitudes and current practices that violate the principles in the Contract.
The world’s biggest challenges, from the global climate crisis to disinformation online, can only be solved if we work together and ensure that everyone is doing their part. Active reporting, transparency, and clear indicators for progress are critical to ensuring the implementation of the Contract for the Web. However, it will take clear, direct, and enforceable systems to ensure we’re all contributing to a better internet for everyone.
We’re happy to see that creators and supporters of the Contract for the Web are considering opportunities for enforcement and accountability as the Contract enters its next phase of planning. We look forward to continuing discussions around implementation of the Contract and remain in full support of the principles it sets out to achieve.