A gold standard against disinformation on the web – by its founder.

It’s worth taking a closer look beyond the religion v rationalism debate at what web inventor Tim Berners Lee wants to do with the World Wide Web Foundation. The aims are global and impeccable as he explained them further to the BBC

“to advance One Web that is free and open, to expand the Web’s capability and robustness and to extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet.”

Said Berners-Lee: “There needs to be new systems that would give websites a label for trustworthiness once they had been proved reliable sources…” And he added later: “The Foundation will also look at concerns that the web has become less democratic, and its use influenced too much by large corporations and vested interests.” Sir Tim is concerned about the web’s development as a major source of disinformation. My question is: how can you devise “new systems” for a phenomenon as vast as the World Wide Web that are effective and democratic at the same time?
Is it technologically possible? Web entrepreneurs have been scoffing at the very idea since its inception. To fund a strategy, tax break investment US style may help. For financial/consumer affairs you can use consumer comparison sites or big brands like Which or the BBC – but that brings us back, closer to big corporations or top-down rulings, and takes us further away from democracy. Without wishing to carp, “a $5 million seed grant over five years from the John S and James L Knight Foundation.” for the Foundation is a drop in the ocean. Compare this with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, with an endowment of US$38.7 billion as of December 31, 2007 (assuming Wikipedia for ever democratic but needs checking at its own insistence, has hit the gold standard for accuracy on this one!)

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London