Berners-Lee says WWW needs bolstering against malicious cyberattacks, dysfunction

At 30 years old, the World Wide Web needs a little work when it comes to cybersecurity and other issues, its creator Tim Berners-Lee said Monday.

Three sources of dysfunction must be addressed, Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter: “deliberate, malicious intent, such as state-sponsored hacking and attacks, criminal behaviour, and online harassment; system design that creates perverse incentives where user value is sacrificed, such as ad-based revenue models that commercially reward clickbait and the viral spread of misinformation; [and] unintended negative consequences of benevolent design, such as the outraged and polarised tone and quality of online discourse.”

Noting that malicious intent can’t be completely eradicated, Berners-Lee urged governments to “translate laws and regulations for the digital age” as well as protect users’ rights and freedoms. He charged businesses to not give short shrift to human rights, public safety, scientific fact or democracy in pursuit of short-term profit.  

“Platforms and products must be designed with privacy, diversity and security in mind,” Berners-Lee wrote.

“The boundless potential of the web has helped humans to achieve things we could have never imagined possible a mere 30 years ago,” although it most certainly has had its growing pains and has ushered in “a new breed of criminal,” said Attila Tomaschek, digital privacy expert at “The sheer magnitude of personal information shared on the web on a daily basis is almost unfathomable, and hackers and cybercriminals use the power of the web to do whatever they can to compromise that private data for their own personal gain.”

Like Berners-Lee, Tomaschek is optimistic about the web’s future. “People are beginning to understand the risks involved with such a potent medium and how to protect themselves from those risks,” he explained. “Government officials around the globe are increasingly using their influence and deploying resources to help push forward regulations that hold companies accountable for the ways in which they collect and process consumer data.”

And the growing prevalence of cybercrime, breaches and privacy incursions have pushed the industry and lawmakers to take action. “It appears as though meaningful action towards this is finally starting to take shape,” said Tomaschek. “We not only have the power to change the web for the better over the course of the next 30 years, but we also have an obligation to do so. The World Wide Web has had a wild first three decades but hopefully, we can work together to ensure its thirties and beyond are a bit more settled."

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