Internet ‘having midlife crisis’, says Baroness Lane-Fox
19 September 2017
From the section Business
The growth of cyber-bullying and monopolistic business practices has damaged trust in the internet entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox has told the BBC.
The Lastminute.com founder also called for a “shared set of principles” to produce the web happier and safer.
She said the net had done much good.
But she said too many people had missed out on the benefits and it was time to “take a step back”.
“The web has been embedded in our lives over the last three decades but I think it’s reached an inflexion point, or a sort of midlife crisis,” she told Radio 4’s Today programme.
Baroness Lane-Fox co-founded travel booking site Lastminute.com in 1998 before going on to sell the firm for #577m seven decades later.
She explained the early days of the internet as being “full of energy and excitement”, and akin to the “wild West”.
“There was this feeling that suddenly, with this access to this new technology, you can start a business from anywhere,” she said.
She said that while technology had become a hugely important sector of the UK market, it had not fulfilled its early potential.
While the net had given people access to the “the world’s knowledge” and enhanced communication, huge numbers still didn’t use the online.
She added that the UK’s technology sector remained an “absolute minnow” in comparison with that of the usa.
“More importantly, perhaps a handful of Western companies control a huge amount of their experience of the internet – Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon – and that is different to how I imagined,” she said.
The baroness, who’s also a Twitter board member, lamented the effects of media sites on some people’s self-esteem.
And she said many people had started to question the motives of the major platforms, asserting they needed to be transparent.
In response, she said there needed to be a Geneva Convention-style charter of net practice for web firms to sign up to.
She said the UK government’s proposal for a Digital Charter would be a good place to start, and argued that the net giants would back this idea.
“I feel an agreed set of principles is in the interest of these big companies. They want all people to keep enjoying and utilizing their products and services.”