Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Worldwide web inventor wants to make internet safe, accessible for everyone

Sir Tim Berners Lee Sir Tim was speaking at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon Credit AP
Sandy Mccarthy | 07 November, 2018, 21:58

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.

Berners-Lee told the opening of the Europe's largest technology conference that everyone had assumed his breakthrough in 1989, that connected humanity to technology, would lead to good things - and it had for a while.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who's regarded as the inventor of the internet, reckons the web has undergone a "big change" since he created it 30 years ago. Berners-Lee shared this contract at Web Summit 2018 and the official website, which is live now, is open to digital signatures from individual supporters or those representing an organisation or business.

It is in this context that the creator defends this "contract", which has the motto "By the Web" (or as hashtag '#fortheweb), in order to create values of equity and safety for all internet users. "We have fake news, we have problems with privacy, we have problems with abuse of personal data, we have people being profiled in a way that they can be manipulated by clever ads".

For the first 15 years, most people just expected the web to do great things.

Various tech companies including Google and Facebook have come out in support for the contract.

"It is an economy of addiction, like gambling or video games", said Mitchell Baker, the chairperson of the Mozilla foundation, she will also be invited to the Web Summit, in an interview with the AFP. "Soon, a campaign is also going to be set up called "#ForTheWeb" to market the contract and turn it into a reality.

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

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. Will it be persuasive enough for the Chinese government to be more open? "I was wrong", he said.

So the web remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future.

For three decades we've seen the tremendous good that the web can deliver. "The contract seeks to get those wielding the most power online to commit to some boundaries in how they treat their users".

The contract itself is broken into different commitments for companies, governments and citizens.

Roya Mahboob, founder of the Afghan Girls Robotics Club, said: "The contract for the web comes at a flawless time for women and girls around the world to speak truth to power, call out injustice and seize new opportunities. They don't want people to look back and say theirs was the platform that misled people to vote against their own best interests", he said. He even said, "maybe it's a myth" regarding the idea that companies need that data to be profitable.

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