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Tim Berners-Lee, Web Inventor, Worries He Created a Monster

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By    |   Monday, 13 Mar 2017 10:12 AM

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said in an open letter celebrating the web's 28th anniversary that he has become concerned with the level of online abuse and misuse over the past 12 months.

The 61-year-old British computer scientist bemoaned the misuse of personal data, "unethical" political advertisements, and fake news, reported the BBC News.

In the open letter, which appears in The Guardian, Berners-Lee said it has been a "battle" the keep the web open and in some ways it has lost control of user's personal data due to hacks and surveillance.

"Through collaboration with – or coercion of – companies, governments are also increasingly watching our every move online and passing extreme laws that trample on our rights to privacy," Berners-Lee wrote. "… But even in countries where we believe governments have citizens' best interests at heart, watching everyone all the time is simply going too far. It creates a chilling effect on free speech and stops the web from being used as a space to explore important topics, such as sensitive health issues, sexuality, or religion."

Former Cisco Systems executive Monique Morrow shared a similar concern at her SXSW talk in Austin on Saturday, charging that there is currently a fundamental assault on privacy and cybersecurity, reported USA Today.

Berners-Lee said he believes it has become too easy to spread misinformation on the web. He said current money-for-clicks platforms on some websites and search engines have incentivized fake news, noted The Guardian.

"The net result is that these sites show us content they think we'll click on – meaning that misinformation, or fake news, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases, can spread like wildfire," Berners-Lee wrote, per The Guardian. "And through the use of data science and armies of bots, those with bad intentions can game the system to spread misinformation for financial or political gain."

Berners-Lee stated that online political advertisement was being used to point voters to fake news sites to support various candidates. He argued that Internet companies should play a bigger role in stopping what he sees as abuses.

"We must push back against misinformation by encouraging gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat the problem, while avoiding the creation of any central bodies to decide what is 'true' or not," said Berners-Lee.

"We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions that affect our lives are being made, and perhaps a set of common principles to be followed. We urgently need to close the 'internet blind spot' in the regulation of political campaigning."

He said his Web Foundation is working on a five-year plan to research many of the problems and help find solutions.

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Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said in an open letter celebrating the web's 28th anniversary that he has become concerned with the level of online abuse and misuse over the past 12 months.
tim berners-lee, web, inventor
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2017-12-13
Monday, 13 Mar 2017 10:12 AM
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