Don't leave half the world offline and behind, urges Web founder

Sir Tim Berners Lee

Sir Tim Berners Lee

Last month, Berners-Lee's Web Foundation also found a dramatic slowdown in the Internet's growth, with rural populations and women disproportionately excluded from the online revolution.

"The technology will she kill democracy?", "Building trust in the age of disinformation", "A free and open internet is not possible any more": the disillusionment digital has emerged as a major theme at the Web Summit that opens Monday night in Lisbon.

The former United Kingdom prime minister Gordon Brown has added his signature to the contract.

Putting the combined companies' wealth and power into perspective, Reuters estimates that "Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook have a combined market capitalization of $3.7 trillion, equal to Germany's gross domestic product a year ago". The firm, which has appointed the former deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, to lead its PR operation, did not respond to a request for comment. The EU fined Google for $5.1 billion earlier this year.

When the Web was created, Berners-Lee was clear in his ambition for it to be an open, free and ubiquitous platform for all. Will it be persuasive enough for the Chinese government to be more open? "I was wrong", he said. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

"We need to make sure that people who are connected to the web can create the world they want and use it to correct the problems that exist", he said, calling the internet "more peaceful and more constructive". That's both a warning - including about how aspects of the web have become - and an opportunity.

For this edition, the third in Lisbon, the organization has already promised "the biggest and the best" ever, with news on the program and space enlargement, with more than 70 thousand participants expected from 170 countries. However, as the Web increases in power, this is having the unintended outcome of increasing the digital divide, Berners-Lee argued.

"It is an economy of addiction, like gambling or video games", said Mitchell Baker, the chairperson of the Mozilla foundation, she will also be invited to the Web Summit, in an interview with the AFP. "This idea can be quite revolutionary for the future of the web".

The news comes days after London-born computer scientist Berners-Lee - credited for helping to invent the web in 1989 - voiced his disappointment with the current state of the internet, following scandals describing abuse of personal data and the use of social media to spread hate.

Some online ills can be traced back to the reliance of certain businesses on advertising, with the pursuit of better revenues spawning clickbait and fake news. "They don't want people to look back and say theirs was the platform that misled people to vote against their own best interests", he said. The genie may seem to have come out of the bottle, but the internet has surprised us many times.

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