Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms


Today marks the 29th anniversary of the invention of the World Wide Web, a tech infrastructure that has become so ubiquitous that the AP Stylebook decided in 2016 that the words "internet" and "web" were no longer proper nouns but generic ones. While this is the year we'll pass the tipping point where over half the world's population is online, a big question mark remains on how the second part joins the party - assuming it remains an aspiration worth keeping. He also said that without investment the last billion people who have yet to access the internet will not be online until 2042 (Alliance for Affordable Internet). While the United Nations has declared internet access as a human right, mobile internet still isn't affordable in many developing countries which deprives many off the opportunities to learn and access valuable services. "What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms".

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This concentration of power makes it possible to "weaponise the web at scale", evidenced by the spread of conspiracy theories, fake social media accounts created to sow discord, state-level interference in elections and cybercriminals able to steal "troves of personal data". "We must invest in securing reliable access for women and girls, and empowering them through digital skills training", adds the inventor.

Although the companies are aware of the problems and have made efforts to fix them - developing systems to tackle fake news, bots and influence operations - they have been built to "maximise profit more than maximise social good". The responsibility - and sometimes burden - of making these decisions falls on companies that have been built to maximise profit more than to maximise social good.

And finally, he is proposing we bring in "more voices to the debate on the web's future". "On both points, we need to be a little more creative", he writes towards the end of the letter.

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He says thinking that advertising is the only way to make money online is a myth, and so is the mentality that it's too late to do anything to make real changes.

He says that while the Web's problems are complex and large, they should be thought of as mere coding bugs. We can design a Web that creates a constructive and supportive environment.

Ultimately, Berners-Lee wants to turn the web into something that will "reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions".

He wants a meeting of people from "business, technology, government, civil society, the arts and academia" to come together and try to right the ship.