Internet among 237 nominees for 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

11 03 2010

The Internet could soon join the ranks of President Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and the 14th Dalai Lama. Wired magazine announced on Tuesday the Internet is one of 237 individuals and organizations nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

View the full list of previous laureates

The Italian version of Wired magazine backed the Internet’s nomination, labeling it “a tool for peace” and “a weapon of global hope.” Wired British Editor-in-Chief David Rowan issued a statement on the Wired Web site, calling the Internet “the strongest transforming force of the modern era.”

Wired reports that U.S. Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson, another proponent of the Internet’s nomination, said:

“People want peace, and when given a voice, they’ll work tirelessly for it. In the short term, a Twitter account may be no match for an AK-47, but in the long term, the keyboard is mightier than the sword.”

Wired Italy launched a campaign this week, dubbed the Internet for Peace, in an effort to gather support behind the Internet’s nomination. The campaign’s Web site allows Internet enthusiasts to sign a petition, send in advocacy videos and receive free news updates.

The Internet for Peace issued a statement on its homepage, saying:

“We have finally realized that the Internet is much more than a network of computers. It is an endless web of people. This society is advancing dialogue, debate and consensus through communication. Because democracy has always flourished where there is openness, acceptance, discussion and participation. And contact with others has always been the most effective antidote against hatred and violence. That’s why the Internet is a tool for peace. And that’s why the next Nobel Peace Prize should go to the Net. A Nobel for each and every one of us.”

Director of the Nobel Institute Geir Lundestad said the organization received thousands of nominations for this year’s prize. The Nobel Institute does not release a full list of nominees, but nominators occasionally announce their choices.

Founder of the MIT Media Lab, creator of the $100 laptop project and contributor to the Imagining the Internet research initiative, Nicolas Negroponte, is an open supporter of the Internet’s nomination.  Other ambassadors include 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, scientist Umberto Veronesi, fashion designer Giorgio Armani, Paraguay Vice President Luìs Federico Franco Gómez, and Creative Commons CEO Joi Ito.

The Nobel Institute said the revelation of this year’s laureate would be announced on October 8. The awarded prize will likely be the same as recent years’ awards. Obama received $1.4 million last year.  It is unknown who would receive the awarded money this year if the Internet snatches the coveted title.

The Atlantic Wire is reporting notable opposition to the Internet’s nomination, with tech writers and bloggers questioning the peace-promoting value of the technology. Challenges to the nomination include Foreign Policy’s tech writer Evgeny Morozov’s statement that “there are worthier technologies” of the prize, including the pacemaker and the mobile phone. He writes that if the Internet were to win, it could “undermine the reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize” and “stifle a very important and still unfolding debate about the Internet’s broader impact on society.”

Others argue that the assertion that the Internet deserves to win based on its success in bridging society is undermined by the gaps it is just as likely to encourage.

Luke Wilusz of The Columbia Chronicle shares his rebuttal to the nomination on his blog, saying:

“Wired should have looked at Internet activists and people who have used the medium for social improvement as potential nominees instead of trying to honor the tools those people use. Free speech in the face of oppression is an undoubtedly noble endeavor, but there are people to honor and recognize for that. You don’t put a medal on a microphone for a prolific speech, and you don’t honor paper for the brilliant novel printed on it.

Still, many non-individuals have received the Nobel Peace Prize over the years. Many winners are large groups of people belonging to peace networks, including Doctors Without Borders, the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Amnesty International, UNICEF and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. If the Internet becomes the latest non-individual winner in October, it implies the award is based on the way people are utilizing the tool, rather than the technology itself.

-By Ashley Dischinger, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org

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