Tim Berners-Lee warns of an unregulated ‘weaponised web’

Tim Berners-Lee has called for greater regulation on technology firms to prevent a ‘weaponised’ web.

The father of the world wide web has warned that powerful tech firms could use the web to be ‘weaponised at scale’. “What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms,” he said. “In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections, and criminals steal troves of personal data.”

In an open letter on the 29 anniversary of his creation, Berners-Lee said that the problems have proliferated because of the ‘concentration of power’ in the hands of a few platforms such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter which ‘control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared’. Google now accounts for about 87 per cent of online searches worldwide, while Facebook has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users. 

“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.

To tackle the issue, Berners-Lee has suggested a ‘legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives’. He added: “I want the web to reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions.”

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