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The web is not working for women and girls, says internet inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee

13 March, 2020

The ‘father of the internet’ Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned that the global progress on gender equality is being threatened by a “dangerous trend” of online harms facing women and girls.

In an open letter to mark the 31st birthday of the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee expressed concern that the internet is failing women – especially those from ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ communities – by silencing their opinions, forcing them out of jobs and damaging their relationships.

“This should concern us all,” he said. “Women’s rights are human rights and are fundamental to a healthy society, from reducing poverty and disease to improving education and economic growth. And so it’s up to all of us to make the web work for everyone.”

Although more than half of the world is now online, stark inequalities between the genders exist: nearly 2 billion women don’t have access to the web, and overall men are 21% more likely to be online

Last year, the Web Foundation published their Contract for the Web aiming to make the internet a safe, empowering and accessible space for everyone.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that we cannot achieve the aims of this Contract unless we address a dangerous trend we are hearing more and more about from our partners globally and working on the frontline: the web is not working for women and girls,” Berners-Lee said.

Although the contract has been endorsed by several large stakeholders such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Amazon, the web inventor said that “governments and companies have been too slow” to address the issue of discrimination on their platforms.

To make 2020 the year of opportunity for change, Berners-Lee called on members of the public, governments, and companies to:

  • Make tackling gender inequality online a priority
  • Call on companies and governments to release data on what women experience online
  • Embed ‘gender equality by design’ so that new products and policies don’t treat women unfairly
  • Develop laws that hold online offenders of gender-based violence to account
  • Speak up when we see women and girls mistreated online

Image: Web Foundation | CC-BY-4.0