The creator of the World Wide Web, the primary information system on the internet, wrote Monday that tech giants may need to be reined in through regulations.
“We’ve looked to the platforms themselves for answers. Companies are aware of the problems and are making efforts to fix them — with each change they make affecting millions of people,” Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote in his annual letter on the website for The World Wide Web Foundation, which he founded. “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.”
Berners-Lee reiterated that sentiment during an interview with the Financial Times published Sunday.
“The number of ways that things can go wrong on the internet has been multiplying,” he said. “The timing is right for a bit of a backlash led by people in Europe.”
And backlash there is.
As the power of U.S. tech companies grows both individually and collectively, so too does the clamping down of such firms from governing bodies in Europe — whether through regulations, investigations or penalties.
“I think the biggest challenge to answer is not how, but who has the right to regulate a global internet in this way,” Danny O’Brien, international director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Different states have different ideas on what controls (or not) should be placed on speech, or surveillance and profiling online.”
For Berners-Lee, rules and guidelines should be considered by “those of us who are online today, but also those yet to connect.” He also argues for the need of “strong standards that balance the interests of both companies and online citizens.”
“This means thinking about how we align the incentives of the tech sector with those of users and society at large, and consulting a diverse cross-section of society in the process,” he continued in his public message, which was posted on the same day the World Wide Web turns 29 years old. (RELATED: There’s A Newfound Hatred Of Silicon Valley)
Berners-Lee is just one of many people with presumable first-hand knowledge of how such tech companies operate, and with a strong opinion of how those operations and creations can ultimately affect society.
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