Web Inventor Wants Regulation of the Social Networks

Tim Berners-Lee 'Beware the weaponised web'

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. "Create a new set of incentives and changes in the code will follow", he wrote.

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". This is because the dominant platforms now have the power to buy startup challengers, acquire the latest technologies and hire away the top talent.

Lastly, Berners-Lee believes there needs to be a greater discussion about the web and how it can be improved.

Berners-Lee explained that universal access is still a long way off, with only 19 of the 51 countries analysed in the alliance's 2017 Affordability Report having achieved their goals. From trending conspiracy theories all the way up to influencing American politics using hundreds of fake social media accounts, outside actors have been able to maximize their manipulation efforts thanks to a far more centralized internet than we used to have, in Lee's opinion.

"The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today", Berners-Lee wrote in his regular birthday letter. "If we do not invest seriously in closing this gap, the last billion will not be connected until 2042". That's an entire generation left behind. 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. He also urged supporting policies that help women and the poor to have access to the web, plus the skills to compete in today's digital world.

The future of the Web isn't just about those of us who are online today, but also those yet to connect. 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.

"I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfill our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions", Berners-Lee writes as the web gets closer to being a full three decades old. "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", 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. Let's work together to make it possible.

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