Tim Berners-Lee tells the Guardian’s Bobbie Johnson that the internet — and blogs — are in danger of being overrun by bad actors:
But he warns that “there is a great danger that it becomes a place where untruths start to spread more than truths, or it becomes a place which becomes increasingly unfair in some way”. He singles out the rise of blogging as one of the most difficult areas for the continuing development of the web, because of the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information.
Sir Tim believes devotees of blogging sites take too much information on trust: “The blogging world works by people reading blogs and linking to them. You’re taking suggestions of what you read from people you trust. That, if you like, is a very simple system, but in fact the technology must help us express much more complicated feelings about who we’ll trust with what.” The next generation of the internet needs to be able to reassure users that they can establish the original source of the information they digest.
I think this comes down to identity and trust. But I also don’t think the internet can necessarily be much better at this than the real world. Hucksters, scammers, spammers, flacks, and various nefarious liars can come after us on the street, in the mail, on TV, via faxes, on the phone, and now online. Sadly, we have to be on guard against them everywhere. Information is one weapon; the more we can know about them, the better we are and the internet does allow us to gather information and gang up on the bad guys; that’s how spam filters work, albeit damned imperfectly. Identity is the next weapon; the more we know about you, the more we know whether to trust you. I’m not suggesting outlawing anonymity, but I will say again that I must distrust those I can’t identify and the anonymous have to know that is a consequence of their hiding their identities. So I thing Sir Tim’s invention can possibly improve on systems in the real world — it can be a bit better — but there will always be another scumbucket lurking around the corner, looking to exploit any opening. That doesn’t destroy the internet anymore than it destroys the mails. It means we need to find the means to manage it as best we can.
: LATER: Thanks to James in the comments, we see Berners-Lee making clear he wasn’t intending to play chicken little and bash blogs. And he does it on his blog.