Tim Berners-Lee talks weaponization and big tech


Today marks the 29th anniversary of the world wide web, and as has become traditional, its inventor has penned a letter for the occasion.

In 2016, the United Nations passed a non binding resolution that internet access disruption is a human right (The Verge).

But Berners-Lee believes that the companies which have become the web's gatekeepers can not be relied on to fix the problem, thanks to loyalty to their shareholders rather than society at large. Unsurprisingly, you're more likely to be offline if you are female, poor, live in a rural area or a low-income country, or some combination of the above.

Berners-Lee remains clear that it is: "To be offline today is to be excluded from opportunities to learn and earn, to access valuable services, and to participate in democratic debate", he writes.

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The web, which was "once a rich selection of blogs and websites", is now controlled by a few mega platforms, Berners-Lee says.

"These dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors". He also said the internet we have today is not the same as the internet we used to connect 20 years ago.

This comprehensive and enlightening perspective about the current state of the word wide web and its future is available at The Guardian.

Berners-Lee suggests that socially minded regulation may be the best means to ensure that the internet benefits everyone.

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But there's another problem that business can't really solve: Closing the digital gap by getting the unconnected onto the internet. This is because the dominant platforms now have the power to buy startup challengers, acquire the latest technologies and hire away the top talent. However, there are still many people without Internet access, and that is causing a divide between those that do have Internet, Berners-Lee explained. That's an entire generation left behind. Expressing concern over how big internet platforms handle users' data in targeting advertising, Berners-Lee said a balance needed to be found between the interests of companies and online citizens.

The creator says that the web of today is very different from what he created.

But, in the first place, to enable full-scale public discussion on these issues, Berners-Lee says it's crucial to make the internet accessible to everyone.

"We can expect the next 20 years to be far less innovative than the last", he said. 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. At the Web Foundation, we are ready to play our part in this mission and build the web we all want.

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