Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the man behind the success of the internet, has celebrated the web’s 28th birthday by calling on internet giants such as Google and Facebook to lead the fight against fake news.
He said that targeted content and advertising techniques employed by tech firms is largely responsible for pushing fake news to people – giving them what they want rather than what they need.
“Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines. These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us,” wrote Sir Timothy on the World Wide Web Foundation’s website last Sunday.
“And, they choose what to show us based on algorithms which learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting. The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on – meaning that misinformation, or ‘fake news’, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire.”
He also used the open letter to lament people’s loss of control over their own personal data and how targeted political advertising is potentially misleading voters. He questioned whether a campaign that says “completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups is democratic.