TBL: Twitter too crude for reasoned discussion

Twitter encourages people to pass on relatively extreme views rather than find common ground, web creator Tim Berners-Lee has said.Speaking at the Profiting From The New Web conference at the Royal Society on Monday, Berners-Lee — often referred to in online circles as TBL — said people need something "more sophisticated" than the popular microblogging platform in order to carry out reasoned discussion.

Twitter encourages people to pass on relatively extreme views rather than find common ground, web creator Tim Berners-Lee has said.

Speaking at the Profiting From The New Web conference at the Royal Society on Monday, Berners-Lee — often referred to in online circles as TBL — said people need something "more sophisticated" than the popular microblogging platform in order to carry out reasoned discussion.

Photo credit: David Meyer

"Tweets that get retweeted can be the perceptive ones or they can be ones that gets someone's emotions going," Berners-Lee said, referring to the net neutrality debate as an example of such a heated debate.

"Nobody was discussing the middle ground — all the tweets you saw were extreme," he said. "Maybe Twitter is not the place for discussing the middle ground."

Asked about the idea of finding truth on the web, Berners-Lee said this was a big task for web scientists such as himself. "Go back through the eons and you can think of humankind as having two great quests: to figure out communally what do we do, and for that we have democracy; and... to figure out what's true, [for which] we have the scientific method," he said.

"Wikipedia started off as utopian, but rapidly figured out it had to introduce a meritocractic system," Berners-Lee noted. "Our task here is to look at the systems we use for figuring out truth and fiction."

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