“The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people” said renowned British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in September 2009. In 1989 he laid the foundations for the infrastructure we know and use today, an intricate network of online resources interconnected by hypertext links: the World Wide Web. Source: Voxeurop

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Special edition
June 2022
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To preserve democracy, it is vital to protect online spaces

A curator’s pick of the European press, by Adrian Burtin
The Web does not just connect machines, it connects peoplesaid renowned British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in September 2009. In 1989 he laid the foundations for the infrastructure we know and use today, an intricate network of online resources interconnected by hypertext links: the World Wide Web. While clearly a visionary, there’s no doubt Berners-Lee could ever have imagined the extent to which his dream of connectedness would come true, for better or for worse.

Connecting nearly the entire world population through the internet has come at a high price: invasive algorithms, filter bubbles, fake news and the commodification of personal data. Cyberspace was supposed to be a breath of fresh air, but for many the air is increasingly toxic.The malaise in which our democracy currently finds itself is intimately connected to the current state of the Internet.

It’s a safe bet that progress towards a more just and tolerant society can only be achieved by reclaiming the Internet and increasing protection for users, their rights and their privacy. The European Parliament has already thrown down the gauntlet by adopting the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016; by leading extensive hearings with Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica scandal; and by agreeing to the preparation of the new Digital Services Act (DSA).

In recent years, the European institutions have been able to assert themselves as major counterbalances to the ambitions of Big Data companies. The measures already decided by the Commission and the European Parliament have not only been ambitious and realistic, but have also been emulated abroad. Extensive regulation, although criticised by some, seems to be the best way forward for the time being. Without such regulation, online spaces are left defenseless against the seemingly unstoppable rise of hate groups, authoritarian regimes and powerful corporations. Adrian Burtin is a French journalist and editor based in Brussels

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