50 years after internet conception, dark side stirs fear

San Francisco, Oct 29 (AFP/APP): On October 29, 1969, professor Leonard Kleinrock and a team at the University of California at Los Angeles got a computer to “talk” to a machine in what is now known as Silicon Valley.

The event gave birth to a network that later became known as the internet — hailed at first as a boon to equality and enlightenment, but with a dark side that has emerged as well.

As UCLA marks the anniversary, Kleinrock is opening a new lab devoted to all things related to the internet — particularly mitigating some of its unintended consequences on the internet which is now used by some four billion people worldwide.

“To some point it democratizes everyone,” Kleinrock told AFP.

“But it is also a perfect formula for the dark side, as we have learned.”

So much is shouted online that moderate voices are drowned out and extreme viewpoints are amplified, spewing hate, misinformation and abuse, he contended.

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“As engineers, we were not thinking in terms of nasty behavior,” said Kleinrock, 85.

“I totally missed the social networking side. I was thinking about people talking to computers or computers talking to computers, not people talking to people.”

The new Connection Lab will welcome research on topics including machine learning, social networking, blockchain and the internet of things, with an eye toward thwarting online evils.

Kleinrock expressed particular interest in using blockchain technology to attach reputations to people or things online to provide a gauge of who or what to trust.

For example, someone reading an online restaurant review would be able to see how reliable that author’s posts have been.

“It is a network of reputation that is constantly up to date,” Kleinrock said.

“The challenge is how to do that in an ethical and responsible fashion; anonymity is a two-edged sword, of course.”

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