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The challenges of re-decentralizing the Web

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

« Governments of the industrial world, (…) you have no sovereignty where we gather. (…) We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before. »

(« Declaration of Cyberspace Independence », J.P. Barlow, 1996).

At the origin of cyberspace (Article published by Le Village de La Justice: Le devoir de souveraineté numérique : la reconquête du cyberespace (FR), The duty of digital sovereignty: the reconquest of cyberspace (ENG)), a decentralized architecture developed on the basis of the most libertarian and libertarian theories : whose most emblematic manifesto remains the famous speech of John P. Barlow in 1996.

It was a question of freeing oneself from all forms of state interference by creating, on a planetary scale, a new immaterial, free and egalitarian world governed by freedom of expression, opinion, communication and contestation.

At the dawn of the 2000s, the Internet evolved towards a notable centralization with regard to its infrastructure, its services and its information. Data, and especially personal data, have become the raw material of the information society, the new eldorado of value creation. As such, they represent a strategic economic and geopolitical stake.

According to the IFRI report « Europe : subject or object of the geopolitics of data » : « Data should no longer be understood only as a legal and commercial subject, but as an issue of international policy in its own right. »[1]

It is the particular nature of data that makes the digital revolution so unique : data deposits do not dry up over time, and the increasing dematerialization of information contributes to continuously feeding an exponential production of data. Furthermore, these data constitute a « non-rival » good, in the economic sense of the term : the fact that they are used once by a player does not prevent simultaneous or even subsequent use by another player.

The valuation of this data essentially results from their processing and their linking : aggregation, reconciliation of data sets from various sources, analyses, extrapolations. Taken in isolation, a piece of data generally generates very little value.

The extraction and massive exploitation of this source of great power offers an almost unlimited field of possibilities.

Taking advantage of this situation, new economic players, holders of processing means (in particular platforms), were quickly in a position to compete with the States : the GAFAM[2] in the United States or more recently, the BAHTX[3] in China.

All over the world, under the cover of entertainment, convenience, deceptively free digital consumption and socialization tools, « these giants of the net have been able to capture data and cultivate the docility of their users ».[4]

The observation : a weak culture of digital risks in a population that too quickly appropriates new uses without thinking about cybersecurity at the dawn of the use of billions of connected objects.

These tools have facilitated specific and targeted interference or manipulation. Globally, the « Cambridge Analytica scandal » involving Facebook has highlighted the danger of unscrupulous methods of mass collection, analysis and cross-checking of data for the purpose of influencing policy choices.

The current construction of Web3, the third generation of the World Wide Web, is also part of this desire to get out of the « straightjacket » of the digital colonialism of these actors of power and influence. It is essentially a question of regaining control over the Data and managing its governance, placing the user at the heart of the process to make him a free actor in the digital space (Interview by Le Village de la Justice: Créer un écosystème juridique décentralisé de l'innovation? C'est le projet de DeLeX Consortium.)

Ultimately, Web3 is analyzed as a return to the fundamental values ​​of the Internet, which was initially designed to allow everyone to communicate and share information in a free and decentralized manner.

The Web3 operates, in reality, a movement of « re-decentralization »[5]. Influential personalities from the world of Tech, such as one of the creators of the web, Tim Berners-Lee[6], or even John McAfee[7], cybersecurity specialist, had already taken a stand, nearly a decade ago, for a re-decentralization of the Internet.

In this emerging market of re-decentralization, the role of regulators is complex and multi-faceted to guarantee the protection of users while encouraging innovation to move towards greater attractiveness of France and Europe.

It is important to move forward in close collaboration with industry players to understand the concrete implications of these technologies and develop rules that truly meet the objectives of security, transparency and competitiveness. For this collaboration to be successful, it is necessary to create a clear, stable and predictable regulatory environment.

It is also important to have open and transparent discussions on issues related to decentralized technologies to inform policymakers and citizens. And as such, fact-finding missions, the work of Think Tanks or even political positions have a major role to play.


Founding President DeLeX Consortium


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