comscore Sir Tim Berners-Lee questions if platforms like Facebook, Twitter are good for the planet

Sir Tim Berners-Lee questions if platforms like Facebook, Twitter are good for the planet

At the Innovate Finance Global Summit, the creator of the world wide web shared his concern over the things that worry him about the future of the internet.


While Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the world wide web with a utopian view of everything positive , he has realized with time that that may not be true in reality. At the Innovate Finance Global Summit in London, Sir Tim talked about online platforms that are forcing many people to re-think how to regulate the internet, and he blamed Twitter for being one of those platforms. He said, “Look at Twitter, is this actually a net good for the planet?” Also Read - Meta opens new office in Gurugram, to skill 1 crore small businesses, 2,50,000 creators

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Recently, Sir Tim had written a letter detailing his three biggest fears for the future of the web. At the Summit, he was asked to expand on his writing. Business Insider has reported his thoughts on it. There are three things Sir Tim listed, which worries him to be a destroyer of the space he thought he created. They are, losing control of personal data, unregulated political advertising, and the spread of fake news. (Well!) Also Read - Twitter acquires Slack-like messaging platform called Quill to improve messaging tools

He explained that he and his co-creators of the web began with the “utopian” hopes that it could bring the world closer together and breakdown borders. “The assumption was if we gave humanity an open space to play with, good things would happen,” referring to the creation of the world wide web. “Last year, a lot of people did a re-think.” ALSO READ: Internet privacy is a figment of our imagination, and that s what US Senate ruling teaches me

Sir Tim was believed to be implying what happened with the EU referendum and the US presidential elections that enforced the re-thinking. Both were characterised by the spread of negative, often fake, stories on networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter has long been blamed for being unable to tackle the multitude of trolls it houses. There have been many cases of harassment on the platform, and one such famous one was last year, when Ghostbuster star and famous comedian Leslie Jones was put through extreme racist commentary and hate speech by bullies on Twitter. It went to levels where Jones was on the verge of deleting her Twitter account. Facebook, too has been seen grappling with the issue of fake news for a while now. While the platform denied the existence and the possibility to be able to tackle it at first, it eventually worked on a couple of tools to counter it as well. ALSO READ: Facebook s new tool wants to educate you on identifying fake news

Sir Tim believed that “nasty ideas” appear to spread faster on the social network than positive messages. He said, “We have to think about the effect.” He added that he thought both Facebook and Twitter themselves were reassessing how to regulate their platforms.

Sir Tim moved from discussing Twitter to talking about political advertising on social networks more generally. He said he is worried by the fact that targeted advertising on social networks allows politicians to advertise one thing to one person while saying the complete opposite to someone else, effectively just telling people what they want to hear in order to win power. (Something Facebook was blamed to be allowing during the US Presidential elections.) ALSO READ: Facebook fake news: If Wikipedia is democratic, so is Facebook

“Should we introduce a rule that if you’re a political organization, you may not target?… We need to re-think how we’ve built society on top of this web thing,” he concluded.

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  • Published Date: April 11, 2017 10:33 AM IST
  • Updated Date: April 11, 2017 10:37 AM IST

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