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Inventor of the internet Sir Tim Berners-Lee to tackle fake news

Who could be a better person to tackle the scourge of “Fake News” on the internet than the man who invented the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Fake news websites, which are also sometimes referred to as hoax news, try to give the impression that it is real news, often using social media to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. This is, in many cases, used for political gain, accusations in recent times have been the American Presidential election, allegedly by Russia trying to disseminate fake news as part of a broader effort to influence and undermine the election”.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is of course a highly respected computer scientist and has said that said the impact of fake news is increasingly concerning, saying that he intended to tackle ‘unethical’ political advertising and the harvesting of data. It is 28 years since his invention has revolutionised the way we communicate and get access to data and knowledge. In an open letter he said that he considers that misuse of data has created a ‘chilling effect on free speech, going further to suggest that “internet blind spots” are corrupting democracy.

A big problem as he sees it is that most people find their news and information through a ‘handful’ of social media sites and search engines, often “pay per click” and what we see is misinformation, or fake news, this is designed to appeal to our biases, and he added, they can spread like wildfire.

Sir Tim said that often the misinformation is used for financial or political gain, it can be companies and governments using widespread data, using this can mean that our rights are no longer available, meaning bloggers are often killed by regimes which are oppressive. Sir Tim also criticised politicians for targeting voters using sophisticated algorithms to tailor messages to ones they will approve of. An example is targeted advertising, allowing a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups; he asks whether that is democratic.

Sir Tim believes that the “internet blind spot” in political campaigning must be closed and that Google and Facebook simply have to increase their efforts to tackle fake news. He plans for the Web Foundation, which he founded in 2009, to work on the issues in a five-year strategy.



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