Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Why Facebook and Not WikiLeaks? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It may be that the many end-of-year reviews that we see are fleeting and transitory, but these give us the opportunity to reflect on what has happened. Therefore, we, as individuals and media figures, most devote ourselves to studying these end-of-year reviews and lists that are published with the setting of each year.

Why did Time magazine choose Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as its “Person of the Year” over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, despite the fact that more readers voted for Assange than Zuckerberg [in the Time online poll]?

Although Assange is responsible for revealing information that has embarrassed US and international diplomacy, and confirming what has been leaked to the media, this is something that – despite its importance – has not affected our daily lives in a direct manner in the same way that social networking sites have, particularly Facebook.

Perhaps the editors of Time magazine were right to believe that the readers who voted for Assange were moved to do so due to the prominence with which he has been featured in the news over the past few weeks, whilst Zuckerberg was chosen for the impact Facebook has had on our lives, and the way it has changed our relationship with ourselves and the way that we engage with the internet. Facebook is the third-largest country in the world, with its membership exceeded half a billion, who are all able to engage with what is going on and quickly share news and information with one another.

This website has changed the way that we deal with information and the internet, since whenever anybody sees any news or website that they like, they can quickly share this on Facebook, with Facebook membership becoming – according to one of the Time magazine’s writers – the internet equivalent of a passport; a tool for verifying your identity.

It is clear that there has been a huge change of emphasis, from figures that are influential in the realm of politics, security, and science, to figures that are digitally or electronically influential. It is also clear that we are witnessing a new age with regards to how we communicate with one another, and it is difficult to guess the capabilities of this [digital] communication, or where this will end. In this regard, Mark Zuckerberg, who is only 26 years old, has brought about an era that many of those on the Person of the Year list do not belong to. Many of these figures have been chosen for something they have achieved or accomplished, i.e. for something they have already done, whilst Zuckerberg has been chosen for he is a figure who has achieved more [than this].

We were choosing the past, whilst today we have chosen the future, as the “Person of the Year.” As for what affects us as Arabs, if one is looking for an equivalent Arab figure [on such lists] then you will not find one, unless we include alleged terrorists who were brought up under the influence of websites, but did not utilize this as a tool for the future, but rather employed this as a tool to harm and kill others, and this is something which only serves to strengthen our preoccupation with the past.