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Computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Photo: Francois G. Durand/Getty Images

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, says the fact that the internet is controlled by a handful of dominant companies likely means the next 20 years will be much less innovative than the last — and a "regulatory framework" may help address the new concentration of power.

Why it matters: Today is the Web's 29th birthday, and one of its biggest boosters is joining critics by calling out the danger brewing in the current online landscape. As Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter posted Sunday evening, the web has changed drastically since its early days. A vibrant array of websites "has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms" that have created "a new set of gatekeepers" that control how ideas are shared.

The backdrop: Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube have been under fire for not controlling the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories or preventing foreign manipulation designed to sow discord among Americans. These companies, along with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, also have amassed an enormous amount of personal data from their users, helping to seal their competitive advantage, Berners-Lee says — echoing concerns raised by some policymakers on both sides of the aisle.

These dominant platforms are able to lock in their position by creating barriers for competitors. They acquire startup challengers, buy up new innovations and hire the industry’s top talent....What’s more, the fact that power is concentrated among so few companies has made it possible to weaponise the web at scale.
— Sir Tim Berners-Lee

The solution: Berners-Lee acknowledges that the companies are trying to address the problems. But he points out that fixing them falls on companies that were built to maximize profit, not social good. "A legal or regulatory framework that accounts for social objectives may help ease those tensions," he wrote. "Today’s powerful digital economy calls for strong standards that balance the interests of both companies and online citizens."

Go deeper: Read Berners-Lee's full open letter here.

Go deeper

Schumer: Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

Why it matters: Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice for “incitement of insurrection" after a violent pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol, resulting in five deaths.

41 mins ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

Texas AG sues Biden administration over deportation freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to members of the media in 2016. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and he's asking for a temporary restraining order.

Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security.

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