back to article Berners-Lee backs web truthiness labelling scheme

The rumours, disinformation and hoaxes that prosper online should be ghettoised by a new website credibility labelling scheme, according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The director of the World Wide Web Consortium told an audience at the launch of his new foundation yesterday he had been in discussions on "how the web can help us …

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Anonymous Coward

Knight Foundation woot!

Hey when they bringing Kitt back, and perms?

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Paris Hilton

It's a great idea, but..

You run into the problem that "truth" is not always undisputed- witness the blithering simps in the Creationist camp, whose approach to science is every bit as risible as the OH NOES TEH LHC MAEK BLAK HOLE brigade, yet who are rich and have the ear of the govenment (and indeed in a lot of cases are members of the govenment) of the US.

New Paris, 'cos fixed width looking bloody awful on my desktop, laptop AND ipod touch is just a theory..

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Stop

Silly idea

He's probably a smarter guy than I am, but the idea seems silly to me. Truthiness should come out of the fact that the amount of websites with the truth will outnumber the amount of cult-websites. It's the democratic nature of the net, much like the democratic nature of thoughts and opinions out in the real world. People can spread the wrong ideas and some will follow, but the majority won't.

The solution to avoiding cults and their stupid ideas is not to block the idiots, but to educate them (and everyone else). Good education and critical thought will make people look for second opinions and more information on subjects.

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Hush, Tim.

For your innovations, we thank you. Unfortunately your past work seems to add weight to your current ideas which are rubbish.

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Stop

Is it just me ...

or does anyone else think that Tim Berners-Lee is much overrated. His innovative use of an existing technology was meant to solve some project documentation problems. It wasn't particularly clever and he certainly had no idea that it would become a world wide phenomenon.

Worshiping him is a bit like worshiping the engineer who designed the SMS system. SMS, a simple technology, was designed to update mobile phone software. It's roaring success as a communications tool was both unintended and unforseen.

If the techie who designed SMS started spouting off about the ethical or correct use of the mobile phone networks, nobody would listen. Why then do we listen to TBL? Good techie that he is, I've got serious reservations about him as a web visionary.

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Coat

Knight Foundation?

Is that the charitable wing of Knight Industries? Will Sir Tim be driving around in a talking Trans-Am from now on?

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Rob
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Surely not that bad a thing

If they want to follow cults because they don't/can't use their brain to reason otherwise is good for the rest of us as it will clearly label them as someone to avoid, whereas without this label we could waste valuable minutes talking to these nutters before we come tot he conclusion that they are a nutter.

(Where's a Tom Cruise icon when you need one).

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He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy

Quoth Sir Tim: "On the web the thinking of cults can spread very rapidly and suddenly a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable. A sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging."

Like Christianity, maybe? That started with 12 blokes who thought their leader was the Messiah, and look how much misery that's caused in the past two thousand years.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm

Well we've seen what happened when someone called Darwin had his ideas picked up and spread round the world like a virus. The pseudo science built around this by fundamentalist believers in evolution is quite shocking. So anything that can help us tick to facts would be welcome.

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Unhappy

@Peter

"Truthiness should come out of the fact that the amount of websites with the truth will outnumber the amount of cult-websites."

You wish. How many newspapers have an Astrology column?

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I feel a new METAMETA tag coming on

Clearly a semantic web is not hubris enough for some. What the Great Unwashed need is a meta-semantic web. I can't quite see the attribute list though. TRUE | FALSE | UNDECIDED | UNDECIDABLE perhaps? Or TRUE | FALSE | HALF-FALSE? A decimal number between 0 and 1? Or SCIENCE | CULT? Or FACT | FACTOID | FICTION?

Obviously Sir Tim doesn't pay attention to the BBC, which did its bit for the LHC panic. Otherwise he'd be releasing his letter of complaint to the Trustees, not moaning about anonymous cults. I think the BBC is one of the biggest cluts around, so my preferred attribute list would be MENTIONED_BY_THE_BBC | NOT_MENTIONED_BY_THE_BBC.

But why not indulge Sir Tim. So I suggest a TIM_DIGS numeric attribute, and he can put in any number he likes - real, rational, or God oops Heaven forbid, transcendental. FFS even complex if no other category fits.

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Alien

Who decides the truth?

With humans there is rarely a truth, merely differing points of view. In science there is rarely a truth, only a theory that hasn't been disproved yet. So who, exactly, is going to decide what is true and what is not?

Will some truths be held to be more valid than others?

Will we see censorship of unpalatable truths, or truths which are no longer socially acceptable?

Has TBL been taken over by mind-controlling Thetans?

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Stop

net neutrality

It doesn't seem that long ago that TBL etc were lambasting the idea of creating a two-tier WWW based on content. Whether such a system is based on ownership or 'proven truthiness' of content doesn't really make much difference since, in case they hadn't noticed already, it'll be those with the most money that come out ahead in either scenario.

How is this going to be implemented? Some kind of 'certificate of truthiness' available from, say, VeriSign?

Perhaps people are just going to have to terms with the fact that technology isn't ever going to come up with a substitute for personal judgement.

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Stop

never gonna work

I'll give a f'rinstance... the whole MMR/autism scare. That wasn't propagated by the Internet, but by over-eager hacks looking for a salacious story. If Mr Berners-Lee can convince the newspapers to infect their articles with a "truthiness" rating first, then he will have my complete support in extending it to embrace the intarweb.

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Oh......right

Yeah, like society needs that.

Some unaccountable organisation somewhere deciding what information on the internet can have a "TRUTH" stamp. Why don't we just hand the internet over to Communist China and be done with it...

Hey, if it don't have a "TRUTH" stamp, it must be a lie.

FOR FUCKS SAKE!

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He didn't, of course...

...name the Cult of Global Warming. Might be a bit unpopular that one.

Anyway, I'm all for having two branches of the web - one called TheCriticalWeb the other called TheRemainingSh*t - the latter would contain YouTube, FaceBook, and all the other remote (anti) socialising junk ! ;)

Seriously, though I agree that "truth" is very hard to define in any context. Even scientific "truth" is a bit mutable (as it should be) ....

Tho' I'm not sure I agree with Peter - I think the web shows how quickly a single crazy idea can spread and gain in influence. I've seen a number of large scale "reports" that actually boil down to one single very "noisy" individual with an axe to grind!

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Stop

@Silly Idea

Peter - I don't know what the actual numbers are but I suspect that the figures for non-atheists in the world would prove you wrong.

As for TBL - can someone please get him back to his room and calm him down a bit - I rather think he has overtired himself again.

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Stop

Religion?

Apart from the very obvious pointed out by David Harper, what about those who would fight to the death for the "truth" that Apple is better than Microsoft or the absolute truth that my god is better than your god? Utter, utter utopian nonsense. He's really lost the plot.

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Boffin

I am sure the Chinese Government is a big supporter

No doubt repressive regimes and others opposed to free expressions will be the first to take up Berners-Lee's proposal and run with it.

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Ah, I see...

...and who, precisely, is going to determine what is 'good' information and what is 'bad' to enable "filter(ing) (of) good information from bad"?

Me? Sir Tim? Yankee Creationists? Fundamentalist Islamic Clerics? Born Again Christian Fundamentalists? Some of Nu Lab's seemingly endless supply of hysterical curtain twitchers? The 'Security Services' - if so, who's?

Basically, Sir Tim's 'hometown', CERN, has had some bad press. So, his solution? Turn the 'free and open web' into a censored politically correct (HIS politically correct of course) sanitised bland wasteland...

It would almost be funny, if it weren't so bloody sickening to see yet another liberal display alarmingly flexible principles as soon as he feels the least bit threatened.

Hey! Sir Tim! Do you recognise this acronym?

NIMBY

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Coat

*cough* wikipedia *cough

that is all

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Boffin

@dr who

No , its just you. Most people (if they know who he is) think hes pretty great. He did create the web browser, web server , web language and first web pages. I guess because he didn't make billions of dollars you think he is overrated. He is a proper innovator unlike the others , jobs gates etc etc who just steal good ideas.

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Coat

And in other news...

All malicious data travelling around on the web is to be marked with the evilbit...

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Alert

Everything on the internet is a lie

"Truthiness should come out of the fact that the amount of websites with the truth will outnumber the amount of cult-websites."

Except there's one truth and a million lies. And every lie has its own web page.

Still, there's nothing we can do about it, except assume everybody on the internet is an asshole unless proven otherwise. And it's very seldom proven.

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@ David Harper

I think you'll find that Christianity has absolutely NOTHING to do with any misery caused by human fuckwits who dont even read the Bible but call themselves Pope, Archbishop or any other bullshit title.

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Good luck with that one.

I'd be quite happy to join a project that allows us to descriminate between what is fact and what is rubbish.... just so long as I'm not the one who has to explain to the gun-toting future VP of the US why all her favourite Creationist websites have been labelled 'this is all bollocks'.

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Thar's Gold In Them Thar Ratings

I give it six months before the "accreditors" start driving around in Bentleys and the most "credible" sites are those that push certain commercial and political interests.

Color me very, very cynical.

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Anonymous Coward

Anyone remember Gopher

obviously not the great web inventor himself, Thomas Bertrand Lister :).

How hard was it to rip off some SGML markup, and serve it via a text stream - not very is the answer.

The proliferation of the network has more to do with the web than HTML. So, p for paragraph, table for table, unordered list hmm ul, oh the genius. Ahh, we need to link it I know 'a' for anchor, what was he thinking, link would have done. And there is the irony, the one difference was the link and there he got it wrong.

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Black Helicopters

It'll never happen

The cult of climate change skepticism is far too strong. (yes, it's a cult, they have as much plausible evidence as the creationists), and all the political parties in the UK would have their sites shut down.

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Stop

Undeserved?

Why when I read the following did it take me a couple of reads to realise it didn't actually say "undeserved"?

"It plans to pursue its goals via technological innovation, web science, and projects targeting underserved communities."

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Boffin

@Rob

Unfortunately, that kind of attitude isn't going to help. While The Brain Trust sit around ignoring everyone else, confident in their own superiority, the rest of the world gets more ignorant. This makes them more susceptible to indoctrination by the Creationist/IntelliDesign zealots, or more likely to accept without question all that BS the media was spouting last week about the world ending because a bunch of scientists have dared to mess with nature, shooting protons ONE WAY around a big ring.

Rather than laugh at our uninformed brethren, we must seek to teach them, so that they may go about their labour without breaking down and crying through fear of the sky falling.

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Any fule no...

...one man's truth is another man's absolute bollocks.

Having an arbiter of truth smacks a bit of some kind of totalitarianism.

Changing your style has spoit my morning and I'm feeling grumpy - ask the hamster nailed to my desk.

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Doesn't sound like good news for...

...Wikipedia :)

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Turing Boffinry ...... AIdDevelopments

If you Search a Cult of One, you Cannot Conspire with a Following Only Lead with Shining Examples.

The BugBear is always Unlimited Finance on Tap which AIMarkets Correction is Being Attended to, with Meltdown and ReStreaming of Currency Flows/Safe Haven Deposits

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Pirate

Who's truth!

Maybe if 'respected' websites like the BBC etc posted the truth consistently we could say only visit these websites for the truth but truth is often twisted for someones own purpose. The only answer is to check many websites, if they all say about the same thing its the truth or someone very powerful has more control then we think.

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Boffin

@ Everything on the internet is a lie

But a lie is just a truth that has not yet happened (at least not in this universe) - simple quantum theory innit?

(Apologies to Biyi Bandele)

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Unhappy

@Stephen Gray

Not sure what you're saying. "The Bible" can be selectively picked-from just like the writings of Nostradamus. Are you saying it's more "true" than Nostradamus? So, is the Koran not "true"? Does, say, the Quaker interpretation of the Bible have more validity than the interpretation that was used to justify the Crusades?

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Anonymous Coward

The internet

is good for porn, pointless amusements (like YouTube, Google Maps and El Reg type thingies) and as a transmission medium for email.

Everything else is just crap

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Alert

Snopes is already on it

There's a website called Snopes that has been doing this for years.

I searched for Snopes in the comments and did not find anything.

Try it... you'll like it.

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Collective semantics

The reason hyperlinks don't cut it, and skew perspectives is because they don't convey the semantics of the reason for link - ie. "checkout this bullshit" etc.

...but this is actually very simply solved.

Persuade Mozilla/Opera/Safari/MS to implement an enhancement to the new <ping> attribute, that allows a simple form of voting on the "quality" of the content, which can then be conveyed in the ping.

The ping gets sent to your preferred provider (Google/Yahoo etc), which then assigns a TTL value to that link so as to skew it's search results accordingly, if the searcher so desires.

That way the internet community collectively can encourage a quality control mechanism on content.

There has been numerous studies done that show collective mass opinion can be significantly more accurate than small numbers of experts - even taken into account the opinions of the muppets in society.

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Anonymous Coward

Let's look again...

OK, I've had a longer look at the changes. Sorry, doesn't work for me...

The area for advertising SEEMS much larger. I used to use the unfixed margins (cough, cough) to suit me so may be I'm being ultra picky. Don't think so and Adblock Plus still works at the moment.

The text has shrunk by a long way. I am slowly losing my sight (thanks to diabetes) and I can still walk down the road without colliding with walls/dogs/trees but I do find this new size hard work. Please don't send me blind before my days are up (stop that Finbar).

Just looking at the page in front of me here and there's a lot of "wasted" space.- presumably for the non-existent ads.

And as for those AWFUL icons - words fail me (apart from incoherent, inconsistent, incomprehensible and what did Paris do to merit that?).

Sorry El Reg (or should that be The Sun with that dreadful masthead) but nice idea - shame about the result.

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Dead Vulture

For an example of the web's distortion...

...look no further than the following piece of reporting...

"Berners-Lee's proposed answer to this "problem" seems to be some kind of centralised

accreditation scheme [...] "I'm not a fan of giving a website a simple number like an IQ

rating because like people they can vary in all kinds of different ways," he said. "So I'd be

interested in different organisations labelling websites in different ways.""

So, er, just *how* do you get "Tim favours a centralised scheme." out of the quote that follows?

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Vetting Truth

Vetting truth is not easy, and just letting people vote is not a good answer. Look at someting like the wikipedia page on Heim Theory, for example. Cults and conspiracy theories can subvert a naive vetting mechanism.

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Re: Collective semantics

Oh no, are you proposing the "enwikification" of the World Wide Web? Isn't that what we have now with the Web 2.0, blogging, tagging, and of course, Wikipaedia? And isn't that what is taken to be the problem?

There has been numerous studies done that show collective mass opinion can be significantly more accurate than small numbers of experts--sure, for a very liberal definition of accurate. Just because every uninformed idiot agrees it is true, does not make it so.

-dZ.

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Boffin

I thought of this

I thought of this years ago. A proxy (or these days browser plugin) which could warn you that the website you were viewing contains bogus info and provide links to reliable content. I envisioned it for warning of hoax type scams rather than an all encompassing system.

The problem is that truth is often unknown or in dispute. Creationists would want pages on evolution marked as unreliable and visa versa, similarly some would want Scientology marked as dangerous while CoS would no doubt regard that as libellous.

Another alternative would be to subscribe to a list based on your prejudices, but this would reduce the possibility that a subscriber to one idea may be enlightened by another marked as unreliable.

You could also have a mechanism whereby alternative views are overlaid or available to readers of any website such that, for example, someone reading an ID site claiming that intelligent design is just as valid a theory as evolution could be made aware of why evolution is a a robust theory whose ideas can be scientifically tested whereas ID provides no such testable hypotheses.

Of course this would likely to lead to the same problem that already plagues the media - the idea that in order to be "balanced" you give equal weight to other views no matter how ridiculous.

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Anonymous Coward

a simpler way

When the browser is started up, have a large dialog box pop up saying "Warning - surfing the Web requires common sense. Please click OK to confirm that you have common sense, or click Forward to send this message to 30 friends, who will each donate 10p towards dying kittens, and close your browser [OK] [Forward]"

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Bronze badge

To name but four

Barbara McClintock, Lynn Margulis, Tracy Sonneborn, Hannes Alfvén. How would their web sites have been labeled in the early stages of their careers? The scientific hegemony rejected them and few members of the public knew of them or the implications of their work. Would labeling of their sites have helped or hindered their work?

Which government sites will be labeled 'trustworthy'?

It's not much of a solution to use popular opinion or 'People Like Us' lists instead of expert opinion. If I ask friends' opinions, hopefully they vary somewhat. Otherwise I'm likely to be getting confirmation of prejudice rather than opinions.

The only solution to Tim Berners-Lee's problem seems to be to encourage people to think more and to think more critically; not an easy task.

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Ministry of Truth ?

Will there be also a 'Ministry of Truth" like in "1984" ?

Seems like a perfect way to censor truths not liked by the powers that be...

IE and Firefox will probably display a big warning popup:

Warning: this website has not been certified to be truthful by the Ministry of Truth!

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