IGF 2019: Day Zero

Cannot leave the next generation a web darker than today: Tim Berners-Lee

By Warda Imran and Veronica Sirianni of HMKW, University of Applied Sciences, Berlin

It almost sounds ironic: Tim Berners-Lee, the brain behind the World Wide Web, has put out a stern warning to not misuse his own invention. “We cannot leave the next generation a web darker than today,” he said on the first day of the fourteenth annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Berlin. The forum that is attended by 3,000 Internet aficionados is organised by the United Nations (UN).

Berners-Lee identified the flaws of his creation stating that abuse, harm and scams online have plagued the web. “Never before has the web’s power for good been under threat,” he said to a packed audience. Vint Cerf, often dubbed ‘father of the internet’, shares this concern.  “When the internet was first developed it was just populated by engineers… when the general public gets access to a platform like this, it engages in many ways including abusive behavior and politics.”


As an antidote, Tim Berners-Lee unveiled a grand plan for “making the internet better”. His so-called “Contract For The Web” is nothing less than a “global plan of action to protect and build the web”, designed to shield it from state-sponsored hacking and attacks which are “unintended negative consequence of design”, he said, shirking liability. Berners-Lee had been working on this new manifesto since last year. The contract is being supported by 160 organisations including big tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft and many nonprofits such as Reporters Without Borders and Ranking Digital Rights. Apple, so far, has refused to join the initiative.

His work on the contract is aimed at finding a balance between freedom of expression and governance. Along with the German Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, the duo explored “virtual walls” existing today and how they can fall. The year 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, holds special importance for Berners-Lee: the lifting of the iron curtain and the birth of the web. Alluding to the sentiment around the fall of the wall, he said, “Not only did the bricks fall, so did the barriers of human connections”.

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Governing the internet for young people

The IGF Youth Summit brought together young international voices to collaborate and talk about the importance of involving younger people in the discussion of internet data governance.





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