Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has called on the public and politicians to “come together” to end the internet’s misuse in a letter to mark the technology’s 30th anniversary.
The founder of the World Wide Web Foundation said the internet had created opportunities for good but had also become a space used by “scammers” and “given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit”.
First proposed by Berners-Lee as an information management system in 1989 while he was working for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), around half of the world’s population is now online.
Many of the world’s largest web-based companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, have come under scrutiny in recent years over data privacy issues and the rising spread of malicious and offensive content.
In his letter, Berners-Lee said it would be “defeatist and unimaginative” to assume that the web could not be changed for the better given how far it has come in its first 30 years.
He urged governments, organisations and the public to work together to improve the current system and make it available to everyone.
“If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us – we will have failed the web,” he said.
Berners-Lee also called for a response to the “unintended negative consequences” of the web, which he said had led to “the outraged and polarised tone and quality of online discourse”.
The letter says: “While the first category is impossible to eradicate completely, we can create both laws and code to minimise this behaviour, just as we have always done offline.
“The second category requires us to redesign systems in a way that change incentives. And the final category calls for research to understand existing systems and model possible new ones or tweak those we already have.”
A global debate is currently taking place over the need for increased regulation of online spaces, with the UK Government expected to publish a White Paper on the issue in the near future.