Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms

Internet creator urges for more regulation of big tech platforms

Berners-Lee, whose Web Foundation campaigns for a more open and inclusive internet, doubted that companies that have been built to maximize profits can adequately address the problem on a voluntary basis.

Google, parent company Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and Apple have been accused of exercising a near-strangle hold on internet users through their selection and promotion of web pages, products and apps on their platforms, which are used by billions of people worldwide.

The web, which was created by Tim Berners-Lee on 12 March 1989, is facing major challenges, its inventor warned. Incentives could be the key to motivating new solutions, Lee concluded.

To remain offline in the present day means losing out on opportunities to learn, earn and participate in democratic debates which is why he encouraged everyone to close this gap for the betterment of society.

"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", he said.

"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". 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.

"Dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors", he wrote. "On both points, we need to be a little more creative", he writes towards the end of the letter. This is because the dominant platforms now have the power to buy startup challengers, acquire the latest technologies and hire away the top talent. The rise of fake news, conspiracy theories, election interference, and the amount of personal data on offer to criminals can all be attributed to the web's landscape, he says.

Berners-Lee also believes that the web is not what it use to be. That's an entire generation left behind. But it'll take more than inventive business models to get them online and up to speed: We'll have to support policies that bring the internet to them over community networks and/or public access. Furthermore, he lays out his desire to have more people involved from across business, tech, government, civil society, the arts, and academia in discussions around the future of the web and not those that control it.

Ultimately, Berners-Lee wants to turn the web into something that will "reflect our hopes and fulfil our dreams, rather than magnify our fears and deepen our divisions". Let's work together to make it possible.