Published: Tue, March 13, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Berners-Lee calls for regulation to combat 'weaponised' web

Berners-Lee calls for regulation to combat 'weaponised' web

The MIT professor and founding director of the World Wide Web Foundation expressed concern that "a new set of gatekeepers" is increasingly controlling which ideas and opinions are seen and shared on 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.

Just 11 percent of American adults say they don't use the internet, and they are especially people over 65, rural, and with less than a high school education, according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. Facebook has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users - more than 20 times more than MySpace at its peak.

The current response of lawmakers has been to look "to the platforms themselves for answers", but calling on companies that were built to maximize profit to fix the problem isn't likely to be effective, says Berners-Lee.

A solution? "A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions", suggests Berners-Lee.

The threats to the Web today are real and many, including those that I described in my last letter - from misinformation and questionable political advertising to a loss of control over our personal data. "On both points, we need to be a little more creative", he writes towards the end of the letter. 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.

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The opposition leader's lieutenants had also remained non-committal on whether Mr. Even Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest disciple, Judas.

But there's another problem that business can't really solve: Closing the digital gap by getting the unconnected onto the internet. "That's an entire generation left behind", Berners-Lee warned.

In 2016, the United Nations passed a non binding resolution that internet access disruption is a human right (The Verge). The target has been set - the United Nations recently adopted the Alliance for Affordable Internet's threshold for affordability: 1GB of mobile data for less than 2 percent of average monthly income. In Zimbabwe, it is almost 45 per cent. In it, Sir Tim Berners-Lee calls for regulation of the web to prevent it from being "weaponized".

Despite the numerous new products and services Facebook and Google roll out to users every now and then, advertising remains the only channel for meaningful profits, accounting for over 95 percent of the duo's total revenues. "YouTube leads viewers down a rabbit hole of extremism, while Google racks up the ad sales". On Twitter, swarms of bots helped promote fake news stories.

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.

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