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World wide web creator Tim Berners-Lee targets fake news

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee said he wants to put “a fair level of data control back in the hands of people”

The inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has unveiled a plan to tackle data abuse and fake news.

In an open letter to mark the web’s 28th anniversary, Sir Tim has set out a five-year strategy amid concerns he has about how the web is being used.

Sir Tim said he wants to start to combat the misuse of personal data, which creates a “chilling effect on free speech”.

He also called for tighter regulation of “unethical” political adverts.

The British computer scientist said he wants the people who have helped develop the web with blogs, tweets, photos, videos and web pages to help come up with practical solutions to make a web “that gives equal power and opportunity to all”.

‘Surprise or shock’

Users are often unable to tell outlets what data they would not like shared, Sir Tim said. Terms and conditions were “all or nothing”.

Sir Tim said he wants to work with companies to put “a fair level of data control back in the hands of people”.

He also expressed concerns that government surveillance is going too far and stopping the web from being used to explore topics such as sensitive health issues, sexuality or religion.

Social media sites and search engines must be encouraged to continue efforts to combat the problem of fake news, Sir Tim said.

However, central bodies deciding what is true or not should be avoided, he added.

Certain algorithms can favour sensationalist information designed to surprise or shock users rather than reflect the truth and can “spread like wildfire”, Sit Tim said.

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He advocated transparency so users can understand how web pages appear on their devices and suggested a set of common principles for sites to follow.

And he raised concerns about how online political advertising had become a “sophisticated” industry.

Sir Tim said there were indications some targeted advertising was being used in “unethical ways” to keep voters away from the polls or directing people to fake news sites.

He suggested companies could put subscription payments and small automated charges in place to make money without these types of adverts.

However, despite highlighting issues on the world wide web which be believed need addressing, Sir Tim has admitted the solutions “will not be simple”.


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