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The internet 'is at a real crossroads,' World Wide Web Foundation CEO warns

The internet’s promise of encouraging free flow of information is facing challenges surrounding misinformation, data breaches, and government censorship — prompting a call for major changes within the network.

“I think the place we’re at right now is at a real crossroads," World Wide Web Foundation CEO Adrian Lovett said on Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM. "On the one hand, we can see an incredibly exciting path for the World Wide Web [that] is nurturing, that is creative, that is liberating, that enables people to build businesses to claim their basic rights, all of the very best of the web that we’ve seen over the past 25 years or so.”

A man uses a laptop computer at a park in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo: REUTERS/Toru Hanai)

“But there's another path that we are all more than familiar with," he continued, “which is a much more dystopian, dark path where we have increasing numbers of data breaches, the further spread of disinformation and misinformation, further action by governments to shut down [internet access] in different parts of the world — parts of the web, and to censor it. So all of those things add up to, we think, a moment of opportunity.”

Tim Berners Lee, credited with inventing the internet as we know it in 1989, founded the World Wide Web Foundation as an international non-profit organization advocating for a free and open web for everyone.  Lovett became CEO of the nonprofit in 2017.

We’re at a tipping point’

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Berners Lee called for major changes on the internet due to concerns of it becoming a “digital dystopia.”

“We’re at a tipping point,” Tim Berners Lee wrote. “How we respond to this abuse will determine whether the web lives up to its potential as a global force for good or leads us into a digital dystopia.” 

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee delivers a speech during an event marking 30 years of World Wide Web in Switzerland. (Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS)

Lovett noted that there have been some positive steps towards reform and added that regardless of how complicated a solution might be, the foundation is determined to find it.

“We are seeing some steps in the right direction,” Lovett said. “There’s always going to be a complicated solution to be found, but we’re determined to find it.”

Kristen Despotakis is an associate social media editor for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at kristen.despotakis@verizonmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @krisdespotakis

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