This piece originally appeared in CircleID on June 22, 2020.
Since Tim Berners-Lee first introduced us to the world wide web, we have seen several major phases of its growth. From the early years — where researchers and open Internet pioneers led the way; to the dot-com boom; to the era of social media domination; the web has come a long way.
While the pandemic circling the globe has undermined many critical systems and institutions of our society, I believe it also has the potential to strengthen the resolve of the Internet community to embrace the vision Berners-Lee had more than 50 years ago. We have the opportunity to enter the next major phase of the Internet — the era of trust.
If the pandemic marks the beginning of this phase, let's look back at the one we just left. In the end, it was characterized by the dominance of corporate tech giants, the proliferation of threats and scams, and the erosion of trust through fake news and bot armies. In Canada, we saw in our recent report that trust in the Internet is waning. Canadians, like many around the world, are beginning to call for governments to step in and do something to reign in what they see as a system perceived to be out of control, one that is impacting their lives in ways they never dreamed.
So, as leaders of the Internet community, what can we do? Should we support the wholesale regulation of the Internet by governments, opening it up to partisan squabbling and lobbyists, or should we continue to allow corporations to close off sections of it with walled gardens and proprietary algorithms? In the world of multistakeholder Internet governance, we know that it doesn't have to be one or the other end of the spectrum.