Tim Berners-Lee Warns That Web is Fostering Disinformation

The internet risks becoming a platform for cults, rumour and disinformation, according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with creating the web. "On the web, the thinking of cults can spread very rapidly and suddenly a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable," he told the BBC. "A sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging."

He said that he was especially concerned by the way the web had been used to stoke fears that the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider would destroy the earth, and to spread rumours that the combined MMR vaccine was causing harm to children. Sir Tim Berners-Lee is backing a new project, the World Wide Web Foundation, which aims to accelerate the progress of the internet and make it more easily available and accessible in developing nations.

"The web is a tremendous platform for innovation, but we face a number of challenges to making it more useful, in particular to people in underserved communities," said Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

"Through this new initiative, we hope to develop an international ecosystem that will help shape the future web. A more inclusive web will benefit us all."

He said that the foundation's three main objectives were to advance "one web" that is free and open, expand the capability and robustness of the internet, and extend its benefits to all people on the planet.

In a speech to mark the launch of the World Wide Web Foundation, Sir Tim observed that just 20 per cent of the world's population had access to the internet.

"When you think about how the web is today and dream about how it might be, you must, as always, consider both technology and people," he said.

"The web has been largely designed by the developed world for the developed world. But it must be much more inclusive in order to be of greater value to us all."

Sir Tim singled out mobile phones as one area in which the web community needed to pull together to create a truly mobile internet, accessible to all.

"The role of mobile technology in the poorest regions of the world merits particular attention. Numerous stories illustrate how mobile technology can help people meet their most basic health, nutrition, and education needs," he said.

"Mobile banking and SMS used to communicate news of weather or crop prices or weddings are just a few examples of how empowered communities have begun to use information technology to overcome the lack of institutions (such as banks) or other infrastructure (such as roads).

"We must listen to these stories. Grassroots innovation is what makes the web great."

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

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