World Wide Web inventor wants new 'contract' to make web safe

Donna Miller
November 7, 2018

"A lot of companies are finding it so exciting to be able to switch from trying to exploit you, trying to make you buy something you didn't want to buy, to actually switch back to the core business model of helping the user [and] generating value for the user", Berners-Lee told CNN.

Like other tech pioneers, Berners-Lee saw the internet as a platform that would open new horizons but he is disappointed with how it has evolved.

The contract aims to ensure that the Web continues to "serve humanity" and calls on governments, citizens and companies to agree to a number of principles and commitments.

For this edition, the third in Lisbon, the organization has already promised "the biggest and the best" ever, with news on the program and space enlargement, with more than 70 thousand participants expected from 170 countries. "We have fake news, we have problems with privacy, we have people being profiled and manipulated", he said in an opening address at a tech gathering in Lisbon, Portugal.

Online abuse, discrimination, political manipulation and much more have overtaken the Internet by a large, which is why the father of the Internet wants to save the web. Overall, they say the products they've worked on have grown to become addictive and harmful to society.

"Humanity connected by technology on the web is functioning in a dystopian way". It's important to fight for an internet that is "a global public resource for people everywhere".

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With the Internet of Things (IoT) being built upon easy, open access to the internet, the possibility of such traffic being throttled or blocked, and related businesses potentially being held to ransom for greater networking fees, introduces great uncertainty. However, the founder hopes it will help generate conversation across the world. But if anyone has a chance, it's Tim Berners-Lee. "The contract seeks to get those wielding the most power online to commit to some boundaries in how they treat their users". For example, the companies' Cambridge Analytica leaks show it may not be in favor of a free internet. Berners-Lee is against this, claiming that "if you sign up to the principles, you can't do censorship". He continues, "will this be enough to make search engines push back?" It's a delicate balancing act, but limiting some freedoms could end up creating a fairer, more open Web. "I can't predict whether that will happen". This contract limits those who have the most power.

He warned Reuters on Thursday about tech firms monopolising the web and said there was no alternative to "really coming in and breaking things up".

While some online issues aren't completely malicious - such as fake news bringing in ad revenue, they are still just that: issues.

Despite the challenges, Berners-Lee said he was optimistic about the future of the internet.

"If we spend a certain amount of time using the internet we have to spend a little proportion of that time defending it, worrying about it, looking out for it..."

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