Big tech must be regulated

Big tech must be regulated

Big tech must be regulated

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, has called for large technology firms to be regulated to prevent the web from being "weaponised at scale".

Today marks the 29th anniversary of the world wide web, and as has become traditional, its inventor has penned a letter for the occasion. "This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared", he wrote.

Google now accounts for about 87 per cent of online searches worldwide.

Sir Tim added: "Companies are aware of the problems and are making efforts to fix them - with each change they make affecting millions of people".

"A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions", 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. "What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms", Berners-Lee laments. "On both points we need to be a little more creative", he said.

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

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While Berners-Lee mentions that this year marks the first point in the history of the service where half of the world's population will be online he also has concerns. And he urged people to close the digital divide by supporting affordable online access in poorer countries, so that we do not deepen existing inequalities going forward. 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. That's an entire generation left behind. He also said the internet we have today is not the same as the internet we used to connect 20 years ago.

In many African countries, for example, 1GB of mobile broadband data cost more than 10 percent of the average income, according to a 2016 survey by the Alliance for Affordable Internet. In Zimbabwe, it is almost 45 per cent.

In particular, Berners-Lee is anxious about the web being "weaponized" in order to spread conspiracy theories, "stoke social tensions" through the use of fake social media accounts, and steal people's personal data.

Facebook, which boasts 2.2. billion users, has come under fire for the proliferation of fake news on its platform. Russians posed as Americans to buy ads on Facebook pushing divisive messages focusing on swing states.

And in Brussels, the European Commission has served notice to internet platforms that they must find a way to remove extremist content within one hour of being notified, or face legislation compelling them to do so.

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