Inventor of World Wide Web launches contract for better Internet

Sir Tim Berners-Lee launches 'Magna Carta for the web' to save internet from abuse

Sir Tim Berners-Lee launches 'Magna Carta for the web' to save internet from abuse

Several news reports cite the 63-year-old MIT professor as pointing to information leaks from Facebook, which saw almost 90 million of its users' personal data compromised, as an example of a handful of tech giants having too much power.

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, not the internet.

"Everything we do ... to make the web more powerful, it means we increase the digital divide", Berners-Lee, 63, told the opening of the ninth edition of the Web Summit, dubbed "the Davos for geeks", that attracts up to 70,000 people. "The power to access news and information from around the globe is being manipulated by malicious actors", his Web Foundation said in a report outlining the need for a new contract for the web.

One of the early signatories to the contract, Facebook, has been fined by the Information Commissioner's Office for its part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal; has faced threats from the European Union for taking too long to remove extremist content; and has been sued for allowing advertisers to target housing ads only at white people.

His plan is to create a new "Contract for the Web".

Speaking to CNBC at a tech summit, Berners-Lee said, "For a long time, 20 years, I thought all I had to do was keep it, just keep it free and open and people will do wonderful things".

Among those scheduled to speak at the event is Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who earlier this year said users' data from Facebook was used by British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to help elect US President Donald Trump - a claim denied by the company.

The contract (in its current, work-in-progress version) includes some short principles aimed towards three sectors: government, private companies, and citizens. For example, one principle holds that companies "respect consumers' privacy and personal data", which is a very noble goal that I wholeheartedly support - but one that's extremely hard to quantify and thus extremely tricky from a legal point of view.

Many prominent critics now openly centralization of the internet in the hands of a few giants - the GAFA american (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon), and the Chinese Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi or BATX.

But at the same time, Berners-Lee's warnings do have weight.

"Those of us who are online are seeing our rights and freedoms threatened", he said in a statement announcing the project, which was organized by his nonprofit the World Wide Web Foundation.

Users have access to services seemingly for free (messaging, search and sharing of information, videos...), but, in exchange, their personal data are sold to advertisers. The other reminds us that it can be hijacked by toxic actors looking to get away with (figurative) murder.

He wanted to rebuild trust in the web and increase internet access on fair and affordable terms.

How would you like to see Internet 2.0?

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