The web is under threat

Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, warning of the power concentration in a few technology platforms and the difficulty of access to the Network in poor countries



Photo taken in February 2013 in Washington, of the page of Internet giant Facebook.
Photo taken in February 2013 in Washington, of the page of Internet giant Facebook.




This year marks a milestone in the history of the web: we will cross a tipping point and more than half of the world’s population will be connected. When I share these exciting news people usually react with either of the two following concerns: 1) How do we get the other half of the world can access the web? 2) are We sure that the rest of the world wants to connect to the web that we have today?



Today the threats to the web are many and real, including those that I described in my last letter: since the misinformation and the use of political propaganda questionable until the loss of control over our personal data. But I am committed to ensure that the website is a free space, open and creative — for all.



That vision is only possible if we can connect all over the world and we make sure that the web work to the benefit of the people. I created lI to Web Foundation to fight for the future of the web. These are the points on which we should concentrate our efforts:










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It is more likely to be disconnected if it is a woman, a poor inhabitant of a rural area and a low-income country


Close the digital divide

The gap between people who have access to the Internet and those who do not have is increasing the inequalities already existing inequalities that pose a serious global threat. As was expected, it is more likely to be disconnected if it is a woman, a poor inhabitant of a rural area, of a low-income country, or any combination of the above. Today, being offline means being excluded from opportunities to learn and earn a livelihood, to access to valuable services and participate in the democratic debate. If we don’t invest seriously in the end this gap, thousands of millions of people may have to wait until the year 2042 to be able to have access to the internet. That would mean leaving behind a whole generation.








In the year 2016, the United Nations declared that Internet access is a human right, as are drinking water, electricity, housing and food. But this basic right still denied to billions of people until the Internet access is affordable for all. We already have a goal established. Recently the United Nations adopted the threshold of affordability proposed by the Alliance for a Internet Affordable: 1 GB of mobile broadband for less than 2% of average monthly income. The reality however is that we are still very far from achieving this objective — in some countries the cost of 1GB of mobile broadband still is above 20% of the average income monthl.




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The rich variety of blogs and web sites from the beginning has been compressed under the crushing weight of a few platforms dominant



What is needed to achieve this goal? We must support policies and business models that improve the conditions of access of the most disadvantaged groups through solutions such as community networks and the initiatives of public access. We must invest resources in order to ensure the access of women and girls, and make sure that they can take advantage of the power of this tool by teaching digital skills.










Get the web work to the benefit of the people


The web to which many were connected years ago no longer is the website that will find new users. The rich variety of blogs and web sites of that time has been compressed under the crushing weight of a few platforms dominant. This concentration of power gives rise to a new set of custodians of the network, allowing a handful of platforms they have control over what will be the ideas and opinions that you can view and share.



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We can design a website that offers an environment for constructive and encouraging



These platforms are able to entrench its dominant position by creating barriers of entry to potential competitors. Absorb the startups with the potential to become a threat, buy all the technological innovations and hire the best talent in the industry. If to this we add the competitive advantage that they provide their users ‘ data current, we cannot but expect that the next 20 years are rather less innovative than the previous ones.




In addition, this concentration of power allows you to extend the impact of those who use the web as a weapon. In recent years we have seen how conspiracy theories manage to become trend in the platforms of social media, fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in the electoral process, and criminal groups take valuable personal data.




We have searched for answers on the part of the own platforms. The companies are aware of these problems and strive to solve them —and see how each change they implement ends up affecting your time to millions of people—. The responsibility — and sometimes also the burden — of making these decisions falls on companies that have been created to maximize its economic benefits instead of maximizing the social good. A legal framework or regulatory, which also takes into account the social objectives could contribute to alleviating these tensions.










Incorporate more voices to the debate on the future of the web


The future of the web is not only about all those that we are already connected, but also on those that still are not. The powerful digital economy today demands tougher standards that make it possible to balance the interests of the companies and the citizens connected. To do this you will need to think about how we can align the incentives of the technology sector with those of users and society in general, by referring to a representative and diverse sample of society in the process.




Two myths currently limited by our collective imagination: the myth that advertising is the only business model possible for digital businesses, and the myth that it is already too late to change the way they operate the platforms. To resolve these two issues we will need to be a little more creative.



Despite the fact that the problems facing the website are complex and large, I think that we should see them simply as bugs: problems in the code and in the software systems that were created by people — and can thus also be corrected by people. Creates a new series of incentives and then come the changes in the code. We can design a website that offers an environment for constructive and encouraging.




Today I want us to face the challenge of having ambitions larger for the web. I want that the website reflect our hopes and fulfill our dreams, instead of amplifying our fears and deepen our divisions.



As he said on one occasion, the deceased internet activist John Perry Barlow: “A good way to invent the future is to predict it”. It may sound utopian, it may seem impossible to get after the setbacks suffered during the past two years, but I want you to imagine that future and build it.



Let us gather together the best minds in the field of business, technology, government, civil society, the arts and the academic world to meet the threats to the future of the web. At the Web Foundation, we are ready to play our role in this mission and build the web we all want. Let’s work together to make this possible.




SOURCE >  La web se encuentra bajo amenaza

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