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article imageTim Berners-Lee thinks the web's facing a 'nasty storm' of issues

By James Walker     Nov 17, 2017 in Technology
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, has discussed his opinions on net neutrality, fake news and aggressive ads. He said more needs to be done to protect the web's open nature and prevent it being abused, warning "the system is failing."
Berners-Lee made the comments in an interview with The Guardian this week. Since creating the web, Berners-Lee has aimed to keep it available for everybody to use. This vision of an open collaborative platform is now being threatened by dominant Internet companies with the power to prioritise their services, choose what gets displayed in search results and manipulate users through ads.
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This is creating a situation where people are starting to take the web's failures for granted. Berners-Lee encouraged users to push for a better alternative, reflecting that powerful organisations should not be able to manipulate global systems. He also expressed concern at how the web can facilitate "unethical" activities, such as the use of political ads to influence worldwide elections.
"The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy," Berners-Lee told The Guardian. "We are so used to these systems being manipulated that people just think that's how the Internet works. We need to think about what it should be like."
Staying neutral
Clickbait and targeted advertising aren't the only challenges the web is facing. Net neutrality has gained some acceptance over the past few years, helped by the FCC's 2015 decision to regulate ISPs as utilities. That legislation is now on the verge of being reversed under a campaign headed by new FCC chief Ajit Pai.
Net neutrality proponents argue that regulations are needed to prevent Internet companies from dominating the web. If one service is allowed to prioritise its traffic over a competitor's, innovation could be compromised as small providers find it hard to get started. Pai's FCC thinks otherwise, insisting that the campaigns of net neutrality advocates centre on "hypothetical harms."
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The debate around issues such as net neutrality, advertising and fake news is likely to persist over the next few years. Although most people agree something needs to be done, it's not yet clear what or how.
Regulating the web as a utility is one way to preserve it as an open platform. Convincing international governments to accept this designation will be a challenge though and there's going to be controversy along the way. The overarching aim of the web's protectors is to preserve Berners-Lee's original vision: a "permissionless space for creativity, innovation and free expression."
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