Contract for the Web

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot      August 21, 2020

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Contract for the Web
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, British inventor of the world wide web.
I have been thinking about the internet a lot lately. The early inventors and users had such high ideals about its use. Tim Berners-Lee, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web (thus “www”), said, “I wanted the web to serve humanity.” In his own words, Sir Tim says, “…the reality is much more complex. Communities are being ripped apart as prejudice, hate, and disinformation are peddled online. Scammers use the web to steal identities, stalkers use it to harass and intimidate their victims, and bad actors subvert democracy using clever digital tactics. The use of targeted political ads in the United States’ 2020 presidential campaign and in elections elsewhere threatens, once again, to undermine voters’ understanding and choices. We’re at a tipping point. How we respond to this abuse will determine whether the web lives up to its potential as a global force for good or leads us into a digital dystopia.” Covid 19 has confined people in their homes, but Sir Tim’s world wide web has allowed them to communicate with others, even face-to-face, and to shop the world for whatever they need or fancy. It has allowed people to continue their educations or learn how to grow a better tomato or fix a broken dishwasher or discover a solution that will keep wasps off your outdoor dining table or how to sew a face mask. Now, that is what I call “living up to its potential!” The shopping aspects of the internet are fabulous. No more need to traipse around to a million stores to find your size. Can’t find toilet paper in the stores? Order off the internet and it comes in a day. Usually, free delivery these days, but, how did such easy shopping get started on the internet? Where did Amazon get its marketing models? It’s weird, folks. A LITTLE HISTORY According to Harry Tucker, technology reporter writing for news.com, “When porn first popped up on the internet, it wasn’t just because the studios wanted to be nice. It was a new avenue for them to make money. Once upon a time, porn websites were the only places that asked you to pay for content through a fee-based subscription. With that, they also implemented internet-based billing systems and online credit card verification systems. This, then, paved the way for the likes of eBay, Amazon, iTunes, and online shopping in general.” So, that’s how come you can buy diapers and groceries online these days. And, by the way, it was an equal opportunity money-making strategy. Some of the most successful early porn purveyors were women. Wired magazine reported that stripper Dani Ashe read a book on HTML programming on a beach holiday. She started a fan site and charged a monthly fee, one of the first subscription sites on the internet. In 1995, she made $2.5 million and used more bandwidth than all of Central America. Send a little thought of thanks to her next time you order from Amazon or Ebay. CONTRACT FOR THE WEB So, here comes Sir Tim—soon to be Saint Sir Tim as far as many of us who deplore the way the beautiful, pristine internet has been sullied—and a bunch of other Galahads who are trying to get the internet back to its original intent to serve humanity. The Contract for the Web is a plan to make our online world safe and empowering for everyone. Governments, companies, and citizens all have a role in safeguarding the future of the web. It’s always worth visiting their website: contractfortheweb.org. Principles for Governments: 1. Connectivity for all 2. An open internet where no one is denied access and service is not halted by any government 3. Respect and protection of people’s online privacy and data rights Principles for Companies: 1. Make the internet affordable and accessible 2. Give people control over their privacy and data rights 3. Make companies accountable 4. Develop open web standards (now, who is going to do this?) Principles for Citizens: 1. Adopting best practices on civil discourse online and educating the next generation on these matters. 2. Be active by opposing the Web’s weaponization by nation states or any other entity 3. Fight for the Web to remain an open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future. RIGHT NEXT DOOR The internet is useful on a global, as well as on a local level. Our own NextDoor Topanga social media site can be so helpful for finding lost dogs, locating a good local electrician or dentist, providing crucial information during emergencies, connecting neighbors with each other. It’s terrific, but, you’ve seen the dark side of it too: Character assassination, mean, busy-body controlling posts, revenge posts. Ugh! No one who goes on the web should be afraid to be attacked, lose a job, get their car smashed up for asking a genuine question, or expressing an opinion. If someone is mean or sarcastic or indecent, just hide or delete their post. Don’t become a censor. Don’t feed the bad actors by being reactive. Instead, we should encourage diversity of ideas. Remember, it’s not always how you act, it’s how you react. Take a look at the Contract for the Web. It would be a wonderful project for family discussions and for our young folks who cannot attend school now, trapped on…guess what? The internet! Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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August 21, 2020

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