Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world-wide web, has hit out at the dominance of global internet giants
in a blog post marking the World Wide Web’s 29th birthday.
Rather than the decentralised, transparent, information ‘super highway’ once envisaged, the internet has become dominated by a few powerful platforms, he writes.
“This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.”
These companies are able to acquire rivals and set up barriers to entry. Combined with the advantage afforded them by user data, Berners-Lee predicts the next 20 years to be ‘far less innovative than the last.”
He goes on to say that such is the power of internet giants, that it is possible for them to ‘weaponise the web at scale’ referring to fake news, election trolling and hijacking, and data theft.
But Berners-Lee says these problems are just bugs that have been created by people and can be fixed by people. He does not stipulate just how to go about rebuilding 'a web we all want’.
His concerns join a growing chorus of concern from policymakers through to media owners, such as the chairman of ITV Sir Peter Bazalgette who recently claimed that online giants posed a danger to civil society, and that they care more about algorithms than ethics.
Europe’s response has, so far, been regulatory: in the form of the General Data Protection Rules, which take effect in the UK this month. This is the most muscular and far-reaching regulatory response to protection of citizen’s data online.
Whether regulation can ever match commercial might online remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Britain has been toying with proposals to make Britain the safest place in the world to be online.
Some observations from World Class Britain’s perspective.