The creator of the World Wide Web has voiced his concerns that his invention is being used more and more to spread misleading information, rumours and bonkers conspiracy theories.
The comments by Tim Berners-Lee came just a week after many science-lite websites were busy speculating that the end of the world was nigh with the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider, ironically located at CERN where Berners-Lee did his pioneering work on the web.
Talking to the BBC, Sir Tim advocated the introduction of a system that would mark out reliable sources once they had proved themselves to be trustworthy websites.
“On the web the thinking of cults can spread very rapidly and suddenly a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable,” he commented.
“A sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging,” he added.
Anyone who’s taken the slightest interest in the events of 9/11 will have no problem locating websites packed full of absolutely barking nonsense posted up by self proclaimed ‘troofseekers.’ Despite a total absence of proper scientific research, these sites continue to propagate and attract audiences with endless streams of evidence-untroubled nutjob yarns of holographic planes, invisibly installed invisible explosives and laser beams from space toppling the Twin Towers (yes, really).
Berners-Lee says that the web now needs to provide people with a way to determine which information is reliable, although he concedes it won’t be an easy task: “I’m not a fan of giving a website a simple number like an IQ rating because like people they can vary in all kinds of different ways. So I’d be interested in different organisations labelling websites in different ways.”
Berners-Lee was talking at the launch of his World Wide Web Foundation which aims to improve the web’s accessibility (currently, only 20% of the world’s population have access to the web) and explore ways to make the web more mobile-phone friendly.