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Open letter from Tim Berners-Lee: the three challenges of the web according to who invented it

diciembre 2, 2019

The message from Sir Tim Berners-Lee arrived on the occasion of the 28th birthday of one of the most incredible inventions in the history of humanity: the web.

Berners-Lee talked about how the web evolved and what to do to give fairness to the platform, so that the whole of humanity benefits from it. The letter was published on the website of the Web Foundation, the non-profit organization at the forefront of the web protection struggle.

Specifically, Berners-Lee attacked the United Kingdom projects that foresee a weakening of cryptography, promising to do battle even in Trump, should he move in order to reduce the neutrality of the Web, leading to very serious security problems. , Amber Rudd, a representative of the British conservatives, must reduce the scope of terrorists, not allowing them any space to communicate on the web, but according to Berners-Lee, giving the authorities the power to decipher coded messages could have very serious consequences.

Berners-Lee 3 web challenges

But Berners-Lee has pointed the finger at the legislators of both sides of the Atlantic che sees them as assailants of privacy, but not of those who abuse the web. He recently attacked a British law the Investigatory Powers Act – which he harshly criticized – and against which he sided fervently, as it would allow people to be spied on. In the United States, however, the disappearance of the neutrality principle would threaten the entire Internet traffic. But here is the text of the letter:

Today I am 28 years since I presented my original proposal for the world wide web. I imagined the web as an open platform that would allow everyone, all over the world, to share information, access opportunities and collaborate beyond geographical and cultural boundaries. In many ways, the web lives in this vision, even if an open battle keeps it open. But in the last 12 months, I worry more and more about three new trends, which I believe we have to face in order for the web to realize its true potential: to be an instrument that will serve all humanity ”.

1) WE HAVE LOST THE CONTROL OF OUR PERSONAL DATAThe current business model of many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data. Many of us agree that we all offer some of our information in exchange for free services. But our data is stored in proprietary silos, which are out of our sight, and therefore we have no idea of ​​the benefits we could achieve if we had direct control over our own data, choosing how, when and with whom to share it. This collection of data also has other effects. Through collaboration with companies, governments are increasingly able to outline our every move and consequently have the power to pass extreme laws that trample our privacy rights. In repressive regimes it is easy to see the damage, everything causes us: bloggers can be arrested or killed, and political opponents can be monitored. But even in countries where we believe governments care about citizens' interests, constant monitoring is going too far. A chilling effect is created on freedom of speech and the web is thus used as a space to explore important topics, such as health problems, sexuality or religion.

2) ALWAYS EASY TO MAKE DISINFORMATION VIA THE WEBToday, most people find news and information on the web through social media and search engines. These sites earn from our clicks on the links they show us. They choose what to show us based on algorithms that they learn from our personal data and that they constantly collect. The result is that these sites show us content that could entice us to click, and this means that misinformation, or false news, can spread like wildfire. And through the use of science and real armies of data bots, those driven by bad intentions, can deceive the system by spreading misinformation for profit or for political purposes.

3) ONLINE POLICY PUBLICITY REQUIRES UNDERSTANDING AND TRANSPARENCYOnline political advertising is fast becoming an increasingly sophisticated sector. The fact that most people only learn through a few platforms hand in hand with the growing sophistication of algorithms that draw on personal data – means that political campaigns are able to build targeted ads directly to users. A source suggests that in the 2016 US elections, up to 50,000 ad variations were offered every day on Facebook: a situation that turned out to be almost impossible to monitor. And there are suggestions about the fact that some political announcements – in the United States and around the world such ads are used in an unethical way, thus directing voters to false news sites, or keeping a part of the electorate away from the polls . Targeted advertising allows us to say completely different things, contrasting at the same time, to different groups of people. And one might wonder: is all this democratic? These are complex problems. But there are roads that lead to progress that are already clear. We need to work together with Internet companies to find a balance that puts the right level of data control back in the hands of people, including the development of new technologies such as data pods (literally data pods), if necessary, and exploring models of alternative income such as subscriptions and micro-payments.

We have to fight against the government and the laws that aim to the surveillance, also through the courts, if necessary. We must push back misinformation, encouraging giants like Google and Facebook to continue their efforts to combat this problem, avoiding the creation of any central bodies that can decide what is true from what is not. We need more algorithmic transparency to understand how important decisions can affect our lives, closing the blind spots of the Internet, regulating the political campaign.

The Web Foundation team will work on all the issues mentioned above in the name of a proactive policy that can provide solutions and forge alliances to drive progress towards a fair web that offers equal opportunities. I urge you to support our work as much as possible, disseminating this information, maintaining constant pressure on companies and governments or making a donation. Maybe I invented the web, but all of you have contributed to creating what the web is today. All blogs, posts, tweets, photos, videos, applications and web pages represent the contributions of millions of you around the world to build our online community.

Anyone who has helped us, politicians who struggle to keep the web open, regulatory bodies that aim to improve power, accessibility and security of technology, but also protested on the streets. All of us were needed to building the web, but now it's time to build the web we want: a web for everyone.


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