Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, warned that “a few dominant platforms” have become Internet gatekeepers, and are now able to control what ideas can be seen online, in a statement, Monday.
“The web that many connected to years ago is not what new users will find today,” claimed Tim Berners-Lee in the statement. “What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms. This concentration of power creates a new set of gatekeepers, allowing a handful of platforms to control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared.”
“These dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors. They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent,” he continued. “Add to this the competitive advantage that their user data gives them and we can expect the next 20 years to be far less innovative than the last.”
“What’s more, the fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale. In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections, and criminals steal troves of personal data. We’ve looked to the platforms themselves for answers,” Berners-Lee explained, adding, “Companies are aware of the problems and are making efforts to fix them — with each change they make affecting millions of people. The responsibility — and sometimes burden — of making these decisions falls on companies that have been built to maximise profit more than to maximise social good. A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions.”
In his statement, which was posted to the World Wide Web Foundation’s blog, Berners-Lee also discussed how more people from around the world could be given Internet access, and how more voices could be brought “to the debate on the web’s future.”
Despite warning of the growing power that a small number of platforms and “gatekeepers” have on the Internet, Berners-Lee expressed support for censorship systems against “fake news” last year.