IGF 2019 – Day 0 – Saal Europa – Launch Of The Contract For The Web

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin, Germany, from 25 to 29 November 2019. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 



>> MODERATOR:  Dear ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for waiting in this room and waiting on the remote hubs.  We're waiting for the Minister to come back.  I just want to apologize for the inconvenience of time this morning.  I deeply apologize for that.  We'll try to do very much better tomorrow.  The only thing is, we have a big farmer strike tomorrow in Berlin starting at 8:00 a.m. till 8:00 p.m. in the evening with tractors so we'll try to do our best to fix everything for tomorrow but there's an analog world outside so let's see.  So thank you very much.  We'll start in a couple of minutes.

>> Very warm welcome to dig deeper and contrast the contract of the Web by Sir Tim Berners‑Lee in a few minutes but I'm happy to hand over the stage back to our Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier.  Very warm welcome on stage.

[ Applause ]

>> PETER ALTMAIER:  Welcome back, everybody.  Ladies and gentlemen, Excellencies and dear friends and especially Tim Berners‑Lee.  Thank you so much for coming.  Thank you so much for presenting your ideas about the new contract, and thank you especially for inventing the Internet.  I had the honor and the pleasure ‑‑ .

[ Applause ]

I have the honor and the pleasure to meet yesterday night with Vint Cerf, one of the other fathers of the Web, and I'm deeply impressed by what you guys have imagined so many decades ago.  And it was, to be Frank, a technical revolution, but it is much more than that.  I believe it is perhaps the most important global innovation in the history of mankind.  We all thought the invention of the wheel would be that historic invention, but as we realized when Latin and Central and South America was conquered by the Spanish 500 years ago, and they realized it was possible to live in an advanced civilization even without the wheel, and to have culture and development and a decent standard of living, but my personal conviction is profoundly that in a few years, we will realize it's no longer possible living in an advanced civilization without access and use of the Internet.

And this Internet when it was invented, when it was rolled out, when it started to develop and to spread, it was a little bit like the big bang at the beginning of everything.  You could not, as a normal person, you could not imagine what it would mean after 10, 20, 30 years, and like the big bang, where everybody after 2 seconds would have said, if there would have been anybody already, would have said, my God, is it beautiful.  Nobody had any idea that this big bang would lead to planets, to moons, to people, to flowers, and to everything.

And today we have a glimpse of all the potential of the Internet, and we have not seen yet the full potential of it and it means it is extremely important for all of us to protect it, to protect it against everybody trying to control, to destroy, to manipulate it.  That is our task and we have to live up to the expectations of millions and billions of people desperately wanting access to Internet.  When I was a young politician, the social media were emerging and spreading like Twitter and Facebook and I published an Article where I said for the first time as a politician in Germany I'm totally convinced the access to the Internet in the future will be as important as access to clean water and food in my eyes it is not a legal but a fundamental human right for everybody around the planet and I still believe this is the case and today we know that the Berlin wall has come down.  The Cold War has been ended but other things in the world still exist and there are still people trying to build new walls also in the virtual world of the Internet.

And that is something that we have to fight, that we have to prevent, and therefore Tim Berners‑Lee it is so important to have you as somebody enjoying this enormous reputation and recognition worldwide.  Together with many, many others, campaigning and working towards a new Contract.  Please explain us your ideas and your thoughts and be sure that we will do whatever we can to support you and to help you in this regard.  Thank you so much.  The floor is yours.

[ Applause ]

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you, Minister.  Almost, almost the floor is yours.  Let me just add a couple of sentences.  Sir Tim Berners‑Lee is a scientist and academic and as you just mentioned he transformed our lives in almost every aspect and according to Time magazine he's of the 100 most important people of the 20th century, may I add also of the 21st century, so having invented the Web in 1989, and that comes back to the year when the wall fell down as you mentioned Minister in the working while working, he's dedicating to enhancing and protecting the Web's future.  The Founding Director of the World Wide Web Foundation which seeks to ensure the Web serves humanity by establishing it as a public good and basic right.  Before I welcome him on stage may I invite you to turn your heads to the screen.

[ Video ]

May I now kindly invite you to the stage, Sir Tim Berners‑Lee, to mark the launch of the Contract for the Web.

[ Applause ]

>> TIM BERNERS-LEE:  Thank you.  Thank you for that introduction.  Thank you Minister Altmaier for your words this morning, now as well as also your wise words this morning so it's a pleasure to be here with you all back in Berlin.  I'm going to talk to you a bit about the future of the Web and how I need your help to help safeguard it.

Yes, 30 years ago this month, the wall that divided this city, divided this country, began to fall.  The world had been designed to keep Germans apart and split families, partners, friends, and colleagues, but it wasn't just a physical barrier to separate people.  It was designed to keep ideas from spreading.  So when the Berlin wall came down, not only did the bricks fall, so also did the barriers to human connection and collaboration in this country and on this Continent.

That same year in 1989, I began designing the fundamentals of the World Wide Web.  At that time, the plan was for that space to be an open permissionless one where ideas could be exchanged.  I wanted the Web to be a tool to bring people together.  If for example someone in one part of the world had one‑half of the solution to a problem in their Head and someone else in a completely different part of the world had the other half of that solution to the problem in their head, then how could we connect them?  How could they find each other and solve the problem?  If we could connect them, so many great things could then happen.  When the Web first started, it was the interpret.  Web, 1989, Internet, 1969, so ‑‑ so 20 years earlier, the Internet had been designed, and it had been designed as a space without the concept of countries.  On the Internet, countries weren't a thing.

Initially in fact it was hard to know which country a web site was in and it was hard for a web site to know which country its users were in, so it was therefore a common assumption that as the Web grew, it would become a very positive, collaborative space, and naturally it would then break down the borders between nations and cultures.  Today, 30 years later, it's clear that the Web has opened up our world to knowledge, creativity, and connections on a scale that I could never have imagined.

It's unlocked incredible scientist advances.  It's given a home to the world's largest crowdsourced encyclopedia.  It's created indeed new international communities which are not based on which country or neighborhood you grew up and it's empowered companies whose voices had been suppressed, marginalized or ignored.  In the past, sharing ideas was hard.  Civil Rights campaigners in some parts of the world would hand‑type a small number of pamphlets to advance their cause and pass them on to other people, other activists who would in turn type them out and so through their labor, their ideas would spread physically across citizen countries.

Now the Web has given people new powerful tools to make their voice heard and to challenge injustice, typewriters have been replaced with blogs, social media and online messaging.  The Web powers social movements, political causes and ground breaking journalism from the me‑too movement to the Panama papers and political uprisings across the world.

But never before has the Web's power for good to be under more threat.  Just as in the offline world we're seeing walls go up on the Web.  The starkest of all is distinction between those who have access on to the Web and those who don't.  We only just passed the 50/50 threshold when half of the world's population is now online.

Of those who are online, also many do not really have a meaningful connection, one that allows them to download at fast speeds, connect consistently to the Internet and use a device, whatever device they want to use for the task at hand.  And then of course there's the 46% of people in the world still unable to access the Web at all.  We need to get them online as quickly as possible.

There's a deep digital divide threatens to be one of the greatest sources of inequality in our world.  We have to close it fast.  Just as more people come online, there are some in power who want to stop people connecting with each other and want to divide humanity.  When Governments successfully shut down access to the Web, they violate people's fundamental rights to communicate, organize, and debate.  When a technology company fails to halt the spread of misinformation on its platform or its algorithms, push us toward hateful content, then the world becomes more polarized, more dysfunctional.  And this also undermines our trust in information, sews division and damages Democracy.  When Web users take part in activities that scam or abuse each other they make the Web a more divided and threatening place.

The Web is at a tipping point.  If it is to be a force for the good, we must act now.  If we fail to tackle the threats that we face, we risk a digital dystopia.  We cannot leave the next generation a Web and a world that is darker than the one we have today.  The challenges that we're facing on the Web today are familiar to many of us here.  For example, in the United States, more than 1/3 of children between 12 and 17 have been bullied online.

We haven't found a way to close the glaring gender gap online which is so much more acute in the Global South.  The reality is that women globally are still 30% less likely to be online than men.  And at least 45 democracies there is evidence of politicians and political parties amassing fake followers or spreading manipulated media to win support.

And back to the U.S., the majority of people are concerned about the way their data is being manipulated by companies and by Governments.  For all these challenges, we know that the Web has the power to drive problem‑solving, collaboration, and scientific breakthroughs that we need to solve the world's biggest problems.  Climate change, the breakdown of Democracy, and the deepening inequality, economic inequality.  There are two short stories I'll share with you that sum this up for me.

The first is about an ex colleague of mine from Cern who found me a few years later when I was developing the Web.  He took me out for a burger.  After he diagnosed his son's severe health condition using the Web.  Doctors misdiagnosed his son.  The drugs they had described weren't working, desperate to help his son the man researched online and came across a web site that explained the Distinguished Delegates the doctors don't diagnose, hypoglycemia so he went out and bought a glucose measuring device.  He confirmed his son's condition within hours and put him on a low sugar diet and the symptoms were gone in a few days.  Happy story.

The second story isn't as happy.  In 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield published now notorious research suggesting there was a possible link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism.  Medical science has since proven that's completely wrong, and yet the Web served as a playground for misinformation spreading the thoughts of Dr. Wakefield's research.  Many parents became terrified of vaccinating their children and the vaccination rates dropped leaving thousands unprotected.  The World Health Organization has found that as a result measles rates in Europe have hit an all time high.

An Article published last year shows that not only misinformation about Dr. Wakefield's research, it is on the Web but it's been promoted by networks that masquerade as real people.  The extent to which a small number of groups were able to exploit social media and promote misinformation about vaccinations should shock us all.

These stories show the two sides of the way the Web can be used or abused.  And they foreshadow the possible future Webs.  One where information is shared for the benefit of humanity.  The other where research is manipulated by a few bad actors to mislead people online, to take actions that are dangerous and damaging.

That's why I set up the World Wide Web Foundation.  I launched it here at the IGF 10 years ago.  Happy birthday, Web Foundation, because I believed that the world needed an organization dedicated to fighting for a Web that is safe and empowering for everyone.

I used to believe that more access to the Web should be our goal.  Now I realize the challenge is so much bigger.  That's why today, we're launching the Contract for the Web.  First‑ever global Plan of Action to protect and build the Web we want.  A year ago, at the Web Summit in Lisbon I called for Governments, companies and citizens across the world to work together to build a better Web.

We launched 9 founding principles as the basis of this Contract for the Web.  Since then, experts discussing and debating in Working Groups have turned these principles into a plan that lays out a vision for the Web we want and provides a road map for those policies and actions we need to get there.  Today marks a milestone as we publish the first version of this Contract for the Web.  The contract sets out new standards to make sure everyone can connect to the Internet all of the time, to ensure that data is protected, to reduce online hate by strengthening community building online.

It takes steps to prevent deliberate malicious misuse of the Web such as state sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behavior and online harassment.  The contract identifies ways to improve the design of systems to eradicate perverse incentives, for example revenue models that commercially reward click bait and the viral spread of misinformation.  It suggests actions to tackle the unintended negative consequences of design, and how to create new norms to improve an online discourse that has become polarized and divisive.

Created by experts and citizens from across the world, the Contract for the Web is a plan to make sure that the online world truly serves humanity.  The level of support we've had since I called for it has been wonderful.  We built a Coalition of some of the biggest thinkers and influencers and influential organizations in the world.  Huge thank you to everyone who's been involved.

I am thrilled to announce as we launch the contract more than 160 organizations have endorsed it.  By the end of today I suspect there will be more.  It includes Civil Society organizations from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, large and small companies, leaders and experts from around the world.

I also am very glad to say that the number of governments are committed to continued engagement of the process, including the German Government and especially thank again Minister Altmaier for his leadership and for being here when we launch the Contract for the Web.

The contract also critically calls for people everywhere to join the fight for the Web.  Because the best way to challenge the priorities and actions of those in power is to speak up from every corner of the world and demand the Web we want.  My goal for the Web originally was to design a space that fostered collaboration and broke down the barriers between the existing systems, and between all people.  I wasn't just trying to build a system to connect information but a whole new world where different systems and perspectives could co‑exist and be interlinked.  That vision is critical to getting the Web back on track as a force for good.

The Web's challenges as complex ‑‑ are complex and can't be solved by any one party.  We need to rethink laws, regulations and technology design, and human behavior.  That means everyone, Governments, companies, Civil Society, and citizens, must cooperate in this fight for the future.  30 years ago, the course of history changed when the barrier that divided the city was pulled to the ground.  In another 30 years, we will be judged by what we do today.

I want to underline that this is all about commitment and accountability.  The Contract for the Web provides everyone, individuals and organizations, with concrete actions that they can and must take to build a Web that works for all humanity.  If you work in Governmental policy, use the contract as a road map to laws and regulations you develop.  Be a leader in building a Web that upholds citizens' rights and allows their creativity to flourish.  For those of you who are developers, I want you to build platforms for Democracy and civil debate, build systems that are accountable and hold people accountable.

Think about creating revenue models not based on data collection, and make sure the goals of the contract are embedded in the systems that you build.  Companies, show that you're committed to building technology that will support the best in humanity, not the worst.  Put safety and privacy of your users first.

Assess the impact of your tech on human rights and on society.  Employ a diverse work force that can design products that work for everyone, not just the few.  Live up to the commitments you've made today.  And if anyone uses the Web, be thoughtful and positive about what you post, share, and like.

Most importantly, back the Contract for the Web.  Galvanize others to come and join us, and commit to taking action for a better Web.  We all have a part to play.  And we have to act now.  If we dare to create the Web that we want.

Now, I'm going to Tweet, a single Tweet from may account which has the hashtag for this Conference so you can find it with the hashtag for the Conference, and then I would like you to reTweet it with ‑‑ add your name, reTweet it, send the link to your friends and your parents and your children.  Write the URL on the back of your business cards.  ContractfortheWeb.org.  Contract for the Web, one word,.org, and help us all come together to build the Web that we want.  Thank you.

[ Applause ]

>> MODERATOR:  Thank you, thank you very much, Sir Tim.  I hope we have a good algorithm in the back who is counting how many people will have signed until tomorrow.  I thank you all for your great attention span this day.  I wish you a wonderful connection moment outside at the social hubs, with this wonderful global community.  I hope to see you safe and healthy again tomorrow.  And thank you very much for this invention spirit that you kept on going for the last 30 years and thank you for inspiring us Sir Tim at the end of this session.  Thank you all very much, and see you again.  Thank you.

[ Applause ]

[ End of session ]