GENEVA (AP) — The inventor of the World Wide Web knows his revolutionary innovation is coming of age, and doesn’t always like what he sees: state-sponsored hacking, online harassment, hate speech and misinformation among the ills of its “digital adolescence.”
Tim Berners-Lee issued a cri-de-coeur letter and spoke to a few reporters Monday on the eve of the 30-year anniversary of his first paper with an outline of what would become the web — a first step toward transforming countless lives and the global economy.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, plans to host Berners-Lee and other web aficionados on Tuesday. “We’re celebrating, but we’re also very concerned,” Berners-Lee said.
- Tim Berners-Lee first envisioned the World Wide Web 30 years ago.
- In a letter published Monday, Berners-Lee said he understands concerns that the web is no longer a “force for good.”
- Berners-Lee laid out three reasons why the web is dysfunctional, including “perverse incentives” from ad-based business models.
In the letter, Berners-Lee laid out “three sources of dysfunction” affecting the web today. The first, he said, is deliberate and malicious behavior like state-sponsored hacking and online harassment. Berners-Lee made the case for new laws to curb this behavior online while still maintaining the openness of the internet.
“Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age,” he said. “They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open.”
An open web has been a sticking point for Berners-Lee. From the outset, he chose to make the underlying code of the World Wide Web available to anyone without a fee.
Berners-Lee said the system has since been designed with “perverse” incentives, which he sees as the second source of dysfunction in the web today. He singled out ad-based revenue models, used by many tech giants like Googleand Facebook, that reward “clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation.” The web’s inventor has previously attacked big tech companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter for exploiting people’s personal data.
“Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety,” he said in the letter Monday.
World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee on Monday slammed the increasing commodification of personal information and appealed for internet users to strive to maintain “complete control” of their data.
Berners-Lee, credited with creating the web in 1989, is on a mission to save his invention from a range of problems increasingly dominating online life, including misinformation and a lack of data protection.
“You should have complete control of your data. It’s not oil. It’s not a commodity,” he told a small group of journalists gathered at Europe’s physics lab CERN, where he first came up with the idea for the web 30 years ago.
When it comes to personal data, “you should not be able to sell it for money,” he said, “because it’s a right”.
Berners-Lee, who last year launched a development platform called “Solid” aimed at giving users control of their data, described a frightening future if we do not rise to the challenge of privacy protection.