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13 March 2018, 10:48 | Regina Holmes
Tim Berners-Lee 'Beware the weaponised web'
On the 29th birthday of the world wide web, its founder Tim Berners-Lee has penned down an interesting perspective about how the web is now exclusively controlled by a handful of companies and how a regulator may soon be needed to monitor it to prevent it from being weaponised at scale.
In his letter, Berners-Lee criticized tech giants like Twitter and Facebook for having too much control over the Internet, and suggested more regulation.
Tim Berners-Lee wove the World Wide Web and is still caught up in it - especially Monday, its 29th birthday.
Berners-Lee also expressed how the web "was once a rich selection of blogs and websites" but has now "been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms".
Berners-Lee points out that these key companies control which "ideas and options are seen and shared" at a key point in history, with the number of people with internet access globally to exceed 50 per cent for the first time in 2018, in line with the United Nations declaration that using the net is a basic human right.
While last year's threats are still prevalent, this year Berners-Lee is focusing on closing the digital divide, making the web work for people, and bringing more voices to debate on the web's future. "That's an entire generation left behind", Berners-Lee warned. This is because the dominant platforms now have the power to buy startup challengers, acquire the latest technologies and hire away the top talent. They also decide what content is and isn't allowed on the web.
He suggested that a legal or regulatory framework that "accounts for social objectives" could help in an industry that's created to maximize profit instead of the "social good". Currently, half of the world's population can not access the internet. And at the beginning of this year the UN Broadband Commission launched 2025 targets (ITU), including adopting the Alliance for Affordable Internet'sthreshold for affordability target, which says entry-level broadband services should be less than two percent of average monthly incomes. While he does not propose any particular ideas, he points out that advertising is not the only business model available to online companies, and that a more creative approach is needed. We can design a Web that creates a constructive and supportive environment. Furthermore, he lays out his desire to have more people involved from across business, tech, government, civil society, the arts, and academia in discussions around the future of the web and not those that control it.
"I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions", he said.
"Today, I want to challenge us all to have greater ambitions for the web".
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