Social contract for the internet

German government supports "contract for the web"

Every individual should be able to use the internet – freely, safely, and without fear. That is the intention of the contract for the web which Federal Government Commissioner for Digitalisation Dorothee Bär and Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley have signed on behalf of the German government in Berlin.

Internet address

Every individual should have access to the internet – one of the goals of the contract for the web

Photo: Colourbox/Jan Sandvik

By signing the contract, the German government undertakes to comply with the principles of the contract for the web. These include ensuring that every individual has access to the internet at any time and that the right to privacy is respected.

"The internet is the backbone of digitalisation. The German government protects it as a public good and a fundamental right. We are thus happy to support the principles of this contact," said Federal Government Commissioner for Digitalisation Dorothee Bär.

Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley stressed, "The internet is a public good. Everybody must have access. That is why it is important that the German government has committed to precisely this today." It is up to politicians and civil society to define the pertinent legal framework and discuss the ethical questions involved.

The German government agreed at its digital retreat in Potsdam in mid-November to sign the contract. The coalition agreement laid the foundations – for instance the plan to create a legal entitlement to across-the-board access to fast internet by 2025.

To be published in May 2019

The idea of a contract for the web came from the father of the world wide web, and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, Tim Berners-Lee. In November 2018 at the Web Summit in Lisbon he called on citizens, companies and governments to enter into a global social contract for the digital space to ensure an open and free web.

Publication is scheduled for May 2019 – a symbolic date, since by then more than half of the world’s population is to be online. The French government has already announced its support along with numerous organisations and individuals, including Google, Facebook and the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Federal Government Commissioner for Digitalisation Dorothee Bär and Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley sign the contract for the web.

Federal Government Commissioner for Digitalisation Dorothee Bär and Federal Justice Minister Katarina Barley sign the contract for the web.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

What does the contract for the web say?

Governments are to

  • Ensure that everybody has access to the internet
  • Ensure that the entire internet is accessible at all times
  • Respect people’s right to privacy.

Companies are to

  • Make the internet affordable and accessible for all
  • Respect the privacy and personal data of consumers
  • Develop technology to support what is best in people and fight what is worst

Users are to

  • Help design and shape the internet
  • Form strong communities that respect social discourse and human dignity
  • Fight for the internet.

Anyone wishing to help create the new contract or support the project can become involved as a company or an individual. There is also a social media campaign #ForTheWeb.  

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