The web is a Blade Runner nightmare, but there is a way to stem the tide of lies

Guardian revelations about the scale and reach of deliberate misinformation prove the need to reset our internet

Peter Pomerantsev

In 1996, John Perry Barlow, former lyricist for the Grateful Dead and guru of Silicon Valley’s hippy-tech idealists, wrote a stirring utopian manifesto about the future of the internet. Addressing the leaders of the world order gathered at Davos, he declared:

“Governments of the industrial world, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from cyberspace, the new home of mind … We will create a civilisation of the mind in cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.”

Twenty-three years later, this utopian fantasy has been replaced with an internet that is more akin to the movie Blade Runner: a murky megapolis polluted with the smog of disinformation; where dreams of freedom have turned into unprecedented levels of surveillance; ruled over by a small group of unaccountable mega-corporations who loom over the internet-city exploiting its disoriented, powerless and resentful subjects, who are both their addicted users and the products they suck data from in order to make the powerful even more untouchable….