Tim Berners-Lee: Are stretch-friends the future of the internet?

Tim Berners-Lee argues that stretch friends, individuals who are outside of your social circle online, will help break down cultural barriers

Read Tim Berners-Lee’s three proposals for saving the web here.

It is inappropriate to describe access to the internet as a human right, says Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web (45secs). However, he notes that the language of rights is often evoked for a worthy cause: to help bridge the gap between those that have access to the internet and those that do not. According to Berners-Lee, the dual threats of government filtering and spying vary on a country-by-country basis (11mins 50secs). “The most worrying thing of all is that you’ll end up with the two working together,” he says. He adds that if governments empower internet service providers to collect data on users, the repository of information on an individual’s web browsing activities could be “dynamite”. Berners-Lee questions whether deep pack inspection technology, which can be used by governments to monitor and censor internet traffic, should be “considered a munition” and “controlled like a weapon of mass destruction” (15mins 17secs). The director of the World Wide Web Consortium, who has given his backing to the launch of the UK’s Open Data Institute, says that mining public data, for example to help expose corruption, is the future of journalism (21mins 20secs). While language bubbles are a barrier online, he argues that cultural differences can be as much of an obstacle (32mins 45secs). His solution is for an internet that encourages “stretch friends” – individuals outside of your circle of contacts, perhaps in other countries and from different backgrounds, to help break down barriers.

Read a full transcript of the interview here.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford. www.freespeechdebate.ox.ac.uk

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