Monday, 24 September, 2018

Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms

Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms
Russell Knight | 12 March, 2018, 21:29

Failure to invest in closing the gap between the connected and unconnected - many of whom are poor, female and in low-income areas and countries - will deny the last billion people on earth internet access until 2042.

In the past three decades, the internet has connected half of the world's population online, according to the Web Foundation. 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. It has profoundly changed, and that a couple of "powerful platforms" are compressing what used to be a "rich selection of blogs and websites".

These online gatekeepers can lock in their power by acquiring smaller rivals, buying up new innovations and hiring the industry's top talent, making it harder for others to compete, he said. The rise of fake news, conspiracy theories, election interference, and the amount of personal data on offer to criminals can all be attributed to the web's landscape, he says.

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. That's an entire generation left behind. "We must invest in securing reliable access for women and girls, and empowering them through digital skills training", adds the inventor.

Mr Berners-Lee warned of "two myths" that "limit our collective imagination" when looking for solutions to the problems facing the web: "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".

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And finally, he is proposing we bring in "more voices to the debate on the web's future".

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. This means thinking about how we align the incentives of the tech sector with those of users and society at large, and consulting a diverse cross-section of society in the process. "On both points, we need to be a little more creative", he writes towards the end of the letter.

But Berners-Lee opines 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. Berners-Lee said this will result in "far less" innovation over the next 20 years than that seen during the web's infancy.

He wants a meeting of people from "business, technology, government, civil society, the arts and academia" to come together and try to right the ship.

"Today, I want to challenge us all to have greater ambitions for the web".

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