Warning Sounded On Web’s Future
September 15, 2008
COMMENT: It is clear by the examples listed here that it is free speech that would be underfire here– note also that the examples of supposed disinfo include concerns about vaccine ingredients, concerns about science destroying the planet (should we be unconcerned about the nuclear bomb as well?) and concerns about other ‘conspiracy theories’ which dare to question and/or challenge the convention wisdom accepted as fact.
The internet needs a way to help people separate rumour from real science, says the creator of the World Wide Web.
Talking to BBC News Sir Tim Berners-Lee said he was increasingly worried about the way the web has been used to spread disinformation.
Sir Tim spoke prior to the unveiling of a Foundation he has co-created that aims to make the web truly worldwide.
It will also look at ways to help people decide if sites are trustworthy and reliable sources of information.
Sir Tim talked to the BBC in the week in which Cern, where he did his pioneering work on the web, turned on the Large Hadron Collider for the first time.
The use of the web to spread fears that flicking the switch on the LHC could create a Black Hole that could swallow up the Earth particularly concerned him, he said. In a similar vein was the spread of rumours that the MMR vaccine given to children in Britain was harmful.
Sir Tim told BBC News that there needed to be new systems that would give websites a label for trustworthiness once they had been proved reliable sources.
“On the web the thinking of cults can spread very rapidly and suddenly a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable,” he said. “A sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging.”
Sir Tim and colleagues at the World Wide Web consortium had looked at simple ways of branding websites – but concluded that a whole variety of different mechanisms was needed.
“I’m not a fan of giving a website a simple number like an IQ rating because like people they can vary in all kinds of different ways,” he said. “So I’d be interested in different organisations labelling websites in different ways”.
Sir Tim spoke to the BBC to publicise the launch of his World Wide Web Foundation which aims to improve the web’s accessibility.