The inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee has said governments must “translate” laws for the digital age to prevent “malicious” behaviour online.
The 63-year-old has warned that tech giants should not be allowed to “pursue short-term profit” at “the expense of human rights and public safety”.
In a speech to mark the 30th anniversary tomorrow of his proposal for a world wide web, Mr Berners-Lee will say that as well as that making “our daily lives easier” his invention has also provided opportunities for “scammers” and “those who spread hatred”.
Yet, he has urged governments and citizens not be “defeatist and unimaginative” when it comes to combating online harms.
In a speech at London’s Science Museum on Tuesday, he will say: “Governments must translate laws and regulations for the digital age. They must ensure markets remain competitive, innovative and open. And they have a responsibility to protect people’s rights and freedoms online.”
Mr Berners-Lee’s intervention comes as the UK government is due unveil a white paper setting out its plans to regulate tech giants and online harms.
The Telegraph understands ministers are planning to impose a legal duty of care on tech companies to protect children, which will be enforced by a new regulator.
In his speech, Mr Berners-Lee will identify what he see as the most “malicious” uses of the web, including state-sponsored hacking, viral spread of misinformation, online harassment and the “polarised tone of online discourse”.
He adds: “Companies must do more to ensure their pursuit of short-term profit is not at the expense of human rights, democracy, scientific fact or public safety.”
An Oxford graduate from London, Mr Berners-Lee was a 33-year-old software engineer at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva when he penned a paper called “Information Management: A Proposal”. In it he set out the ideas that would create the modern internet.
Mr Berners-Lee proposed developing software to allow all computers to share and find information on a mass scale after becoming frustrated at needing to access different computers to read different documents.
The epoch-defining paper initially received a cool reception at CERN, with Mr Berners-Lee’s manager marking it as “vague but exciting”.