Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Web creator warns of blogging perils

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 3, 2006

From the UK newspaper The Guardian: (Hat tip to Phil Manchester) 

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Briton who founded the Web in the early 1990s, says that if the internet is left to develop unchecked, "bad phenomena" will erode its usefulness.

His creation has transformed the way millions of people work, do business, and entertain themselves.

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.

Creator of web warns of fraudsters and cheats The Guardian Guardian Unlimited

 

Sir Tim is right, but it is a problem that is not confined to blogging; it is a problem that affects the entire Web. This is why we need a "trust trackback" or a TrustBack.

In the same way that a trackback lists who has linked to a specific online article, a TrustBack would verify the original source of online information, such as a press release or news story, and show that it is not from a "phishing" site.

On September 17, 2006, I published this post on the lessons from the LonelyGirl15 saga.

We badly need a way to verify sources of online content - we need a "trust trackback"

To save you a click or two, here is an excerpt:

What happens in a future world where phishing is applied to news sources rather than spoofing banking sites? And where there aren't enough watchdogs to spot the fakes?

A little while ago, Google News was carrying a hacked headline that was anti-US and anti-Israel. That was easy to spot; but what if Google News, or some other large news aggregator, were carrying a Reuters story that might have been more subtlety altered? . . .

 

. . .This ability to know that a news source - an individual, a company, an organization, a community, or a government - really said what it is said to have said in a news story, an online post, email, or any other distribution channel, is incredibly important. Otherwise there will be others who will sow misinformation in very sophisticated ways, for commercial gain.

There will be many opportunities for such misinformation in the online world. With so many sources of information, and more coming our way, there won't be enough online sleuths to flag the fakesters as there were with LonelyGirl15.

This means we need to have a way to verify the source of specific chunks of content as originating from an individual, a company, an organization, a community, a government.

A reader should be able to click a "trust" button and have the content verified. . .

. . . For this next phase of the Internet, we badly need a mechanism to verify the source of information that we read online.

This is about creating a type of "trust trackback" that is part of the secure core infrastructure of the internet. Who is up to this task?

Sir Tim? Can you fix the Internet for us?!

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