Dominant platforms have ruined the web, says Berners-Lee

Dominant platforms have ruined the web, says Berners-Lee

Reduced innovation Berners-Lee has previously spoken out about issues facing the modern web but this is the first time he's directly called for regulation.

"He then goes a bit bonkers and accuses the internet kings of trying to "weaponise the web" for their own gains, with the answer to such manipulation perhaps being a ".legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions".

These problems have proliferated because of the concentration of power in the hands of a few platforms - including Facebook, Google, and Twitter - which "control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared". The centralisation of power onto global social networks has enabled misinformation and abuse to spread across the web. However, his vision to create an "open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries" has been challenged as the web has become more centralised.

"The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today", he said.

"We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things".

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"These dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors", he continues.

He predicted that because of the dominance of a few tech companies, "we can expect the next 20 years to be far less innovative than the last". His comments come as public concern about the role of social media and the internet in democracy, communication and society is growing.

Berners-Lee suggests that the only way to ensure that these dominant platforms do everything they can to make the web a better place is if regulations are put in place govern them. The highly-public debates around fake news and ad manipulation have prompted increased awareness of the scale at which tech firms operate. For the half the world's population who don't have access to the internet, many living in middle- and low-income countries, getting online is a luxury. He called for people from across society to collaborate and define the future of the web, noting it's not too late to resolve the current problems.

He's also anxious about the spread of misinformation, data theft, fake Facebook and Twitter accounts created to stoke social tensions and sway public opinion ahead of political elections. "Create a new set of incentives and changes in the code will follow", he wrote. While he does not propose any particular ideas, he points out that advertising is not the only business model available to online companies, and that a more creative approach is needed.

"It may sound utopian, it may sound impossible to achieve after the setbacks of the last two years, but I want us to imagine that future and build it", he said. Let's work together to make it possible.

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