At launch, the initiative has received the backing of over 180 organizations, including tech companies such as Microsoft, Google, DuckDuckGo, and Facebook, and nonprofit groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Guardian initially reported that Amazon and Twitter were absent from the list of backers, however now Twitter’s logo appears on the Contract’s homepage. Twitter’s increasing role in political discourse was recently brought into sharp focus after it chose to ban political ads on its platform, citing the “challenges to civic discourse” that they create.
The contract’s launch comes as tech companies such as Facebook and Google have faced mounting pressure around both the amount of user data they collect and how they collect it. The Contract for the Web includes principles designed to prevent this, including a requirement for companies to respect people’s privacy and personal data. If companies do not show that they are working to support these aims, they risk being removed from the list of the project’s endorsers.
It’s not that we need a 10-year plan for the web, we need to turn the web around now,” Berners-Lee said. The Contract, which includes 72 clauses alongside its nine principles, offers a shared vision for the web that Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation wants to see built, as well as a roadmap for action. Finally, it also provides a tool to try and hold companies and governments to account.
The governments of Germany, France, and Ghana have also signed up to the Contract’s founding principles. The Contract calls on governments to ensure everyone can connect to the internet, and to keep the internet available all of the time. This latter point feels especially timely in light of the Iranian government’s recent decision to shut down the internet in an attempt to prevent protests from spreading.
“The forces taking the web in the wrong direction have always been very strong,” Berners-Lee said, noting that it will be vital for citizens to hold governments and companies to account if the situation is to improve.