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Tim Berners-Lee: WWW and Undemocratic Forces


John Simkin
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World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee says he's afraid the Net could be used to spread "misinformation and "undemocratic forces".

He wants set up a web science research project, "to study the social implications of the web's development," says the BBC, quoting him as stating, "If we don't have the ability to understand the web as it's now emerging, we will end up with things that are very bad. Certain undemocratic things could emerge and misinformation start spreading over the web."

But his new web science research initiative would be more than just computer science, he says. It should attract researchers from a range of disciplines and would create a new science for studying the web, "which he believes would lead to newer and more exciting system," says the BBC.

BBC Report

The British developer of the world wide web says he is worried about the way it could be used to spread misinformation and "undemocratic forces".

The web has transformed the way many people work, play and do business.

But Sir Tim Berners-Lee told BBC News he feared that, if the way the internet is used is left to develop unchecked, "bad things" could happen.

He wants to set up a web science research project to study the social implications of the web's development.

The changes experienced to date because of the web are just the start of a more radical transformation of society, he said.

But Sir Tim is concerned about the way it could end up being used.

He told the BBC: "If we don't have the ability to understand the web as it's now emerging, we will end up with things that are very bad.

"Certain undemocratic things could emerge and misinformation will start spreading over the web.

"Studying these forces and the way they're affected by the underlying technology is one of the things that we think is really important," he said.

He insisted his new web science research initiative would be more than just computer science.

He said he wanted to attract researchers from a range of disciplines to study it as a social as well as technological phenomenon.

Sir Tim added that he hoped it would create a new science for studying the web, which he believes would lead to newer and more exciting systems.

"All kinds of disciplines are going to have to converge. People with all kinds of skills are going to have to work together to build a new web which is going to be even better," he said.

He also said employers were now beginning to complain that there were not enough people who fully understood the web.

"There aren't any courses at the moment and it hasn't really been brought together.

"We're hearing complaints from companies when they need people that really understand the medium from both the technological and social side.

"When you look at university courses, web science isn't there - it seems to fall through the cracks.

"So we'd like to put it on the curriculum so that there are a lot more people who understand this."

The US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southampton, UK, will launch the long-term research collaboration that will have a direct influence on the future development of the world wide web.

The Web Science Research Initiative will chart out a research agenda aimed at understanding the scientific, technical and social challenges underlying the growth of the web.

Of particular interest is the growing volume of information on the web that documents more and more aspects of human activity and knowledge.

The project will examine how we access this information and assess its reliability.

You can hear the interview here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6108578.stm

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1938374,00.html

Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent

Friday November 3, 2006

The Guardian

The creator of the world wide web told the Guardian last night that the internet is in danger of being corrupted by fraudsters, liars and cheats. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Briton who founded the web in the early 1990s, says that if the internet is left to develop unchecked, "bad phenomena" will erode its usefulness.

His creation has transformed the way millions of people work, do business, and entertain themselves.

But he warns that "there is a great danger that it becomes a place where untruths start to spread more than truths, or it becomes a place which becomes increasingly unfair in some way". He singles out the rise of blogging as one of the most difficult areas for the continuing development of the web, because of the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information.

Sir Tim believes devotees of blogging sites take too much information on trust: "The blogging world works by people reading blogs and linking to them. You're taking suggestions of what you read from people you trust. That, if you like, is a very simple system, but in fact the technology must help us express much more complicated feelings about who we'll trust with what." The next generation of the internet needs to be able to reassure users that they can establish the original source of the information they digest.

Sir Tim was yesterday launching a new joint initiative between Southampton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create the first degree in web science. The two schools hope to raise the standards of web content.

"Our plan would be to run similar courses on either side of the Atlantic," said Wendy Hall, head of Southampton's school of electronics and computer science. It is little more than a decade since the web was just a glimmer in the eyes of a handful of scientists, but internet-savvy students will get the chance to study online phenomena like Google.

The vision for web science embraces traditional technology subjects such as computer science and engineering, but also brings in other areas of social studies and academic thinking. Students will be expected to explore questions such as internet privacy and regulation, as well as investigating the social trends behind massively popular websites like MySpace.com and YouTube.com Prospective researchers will be encouraged by new figures that indicate the web is growing at an unprecedented rate, having doubled in size in less than two and a half years, and with more than 1 billion people around the world now connected to the internet.

The new discipline is expected to gain widespread support from huge internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon, as well as more traditional computing giants such as Microsoft and IBM. The ultimate task for students of web science will be to come up with the next generation of the internet - and bring about the "semantic web", a more intelligent version of the systems we use today.

But Sir Tim said his only intention was to make sure the internet of the future remained free and open for anybody to use. "We're not going to be trying to make a web that will be better for people who vote in a particular way, or better for people who think like we do," he said. "The really important thing about the web, which will continue through any future technology, is that it is a universal space."

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http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1938374,00.html

Bobbie Johnson, technology correspondent

Friday November 3, 2006

The Guardian

The creator of the world wide web told the Guardian last night that the internet is in danger of being corrupted by fraudsters, liars and cheats. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Briton who founded the web in the early 1990s, says that if the internet is left to develop unchecked, "bad phenomena" will erode its usefulness.

His creation has transformed the way millions of people work, do business, and entertain themselves.

But he warns that "there is a great danger that it becomes a place where untruths start to spread more than truths, or it becomes a place which becomes increasingly unfair in some way". He singles out the rise of blogging as one of the most difficult areas for the continuing development of the web, because of the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information.

Sir Tim believes devotees of blogging sites take too much information on trust: "The blogging world works by people reading blogs and linking to them. You're taking suggestions of what you read from people you trust. That, if you like, is a very simple system, but in fact the technology must help us express much more complicated feelings about who we'll trust with what." The next generation of the internet needs to be able to reassure users that they can establish the original source of the information they digest.

Sir Tim was yesterday launching a new joint initiative between Southampton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create the first degree in web science. The two schools hope to raise the standards of web content.

"Our plan would be to run similar courses on either side of the Atlantic," said Wendy Hall, head of Southampton's school of electronics and computer science. It is little more than a decade since the web was just a glimmer in the eyes of a handful of scientists, but internet-savvy students will get the chance to study online phenomena like Google.

The vision for web science embraces traditional technology subjects such as computer science and engineering, but also brings in other areas of social studies and academic thinking. Students will be expected to explore questions such as internet privacy and regulation, as well as investigating the social trends behind massively popular websites like MySpace.com and YouTube.com Prospective researchers will be encouraged by new figures that indicate the web is growing at an unprecedented rate, having doubled in size in less than two and a half years, and with more than 1 billion people around the world now connected to the internet.

The new discipline is expected to gain widespread support from huge internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon, as well as more traditional computing giants such as Microsoft and IBM. The ultimate task for students of web science will be to come up with the next generation of the internet - and bring about the "semantic web", a more intelligent version of the systems we use today.

But Sir Tim said his only intention was to make sure the internet of the future remained free and open for anybody to use. "We're not going to be trying to make a web that will be better for people who vote in a particular way, or better for people who think like we do," he said. "The really important thing about the web, which will continue through any future technology, is that it is a universal space."

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