The inventor of the World Wide Web has said that social media and fake news are helping lead to the downfall of the online space as we know it.
Speaking as part of the opening keynote at OpenText Enterprise World in Toronto, Sir Tim Berners-Lee described how he built the World Wide Web, and how he and his team could never have envisaged how it could have grown.
But he also raised concerns about how companies, governments and other institutions could maliciously use the Internet in order to drive humanity apart and create discord.
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“The Web isn’t perfect,” Sir Tim Bernes-Lee said during his speech, “We want people to use the web in a positive way.”
“Be creative, be constructive. Build communities that respect civil rights and dignity. Don’t be nasty – it’s that simple.”
Berners-Lee took particular aim at the power of social media sites, referencing the recent Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal and how that particular social network could affect society as a whole.
Noting how “fake news” scams had helped polarise opinions across the world, making people click on obviously false stories out of curiosity, he bemoaned how the “unintended consequences” of growing social networks may have helped bring many of us closer together, but also driven us further apart.
“The world is a certain amount more nasty and more divided thanks to a certain social network,” he said. “These are the things we didn’t think about back in 1969.”
Berners-Lee referenced TV smash hit Black Mirror as “a flag itself” for the negative effects technology is having on our everyday lives, stating that, “we need to keep working until Black Mirror is not a thing – we need to build a ‘White Mirror’, helping to build something constructive…things like the personal power we felt when we were bloggers.”
“When you’re worried about all the things that could go wrong, it’s easy to focus on this – but let’s not…the Internet started off utopian, but now it looks like it’s going a bit more dystopian.”
(Image credit: Shutterstock.com)
Going forward, Berners-Lee urged Internet users to go out and fight for the future of the Internet, harking back to the days of political protest he saw when developing the Web.
“We ask people to fight for the web,” he said, “because the governments and the industry will get together and try to get the policy and technology right.”
“But every now and again they slip up, go in the wrong direction…at the end of the day, citizens are the only people that hold governments or people accountable.”
“The web is bigger than you, and we must analyse it and make sure it behaves as it should.”
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