Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Culture | By Stewart Greene

Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms

Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms

World Wide Web founder highlights the myriad problems with our online world.


In a blog post marking the world wide web's 29th birthday, Sir Tim also suggested that the best way to stop this happening might be through regulation.

Since then, representatives from Facebook, Twitter and Google have been hauled in front of Congress to answer questions over the extent to which their platforms were used in a multi-pronged Russian operation to influence the 2016 presidential election. More recently, the internet fueled the success of some of the world's largest tech companies-and, in effect, created their own share of problems like misinformation and the crisis of personal data security.

You can read Sir Time Berners-Lee's letter in full over on the Web Foundation website.

"The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today", he said.

That may have to involve regulation, he believes.

Discussing the risks of fake news and hacking, he wrote: "The fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale".

Berners-Lee accused the web titans of stifling innovation by snapping up startups and controlling which "ideas and opinions are shared and seen".

"Two myths now limit our collective imagination: the myth that advertising is the only possible business model for online companies, and the myth that it's too late to change the way platforms operate", Berners-Lee writes in an open letter. "They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry's top talent".

Berners-Lee called on the world of web users to design a web that creates a constructive and supportive environment. "A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions", he explained.

Berners-Lee is just one of many people with presumable first-hand knowledge of how such tech companies operate, and how those operations and creations can ultimately affect society. For the half the world's population who don't have access to the internet, many living in middle- and low-income countries, getting online is a luxury.

"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 warns. 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). We must invest in securing reliable access for women and girls, and empowering them through digital skills training. 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.

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