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WikiLeaks and the Internet Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Julian AssangeThe list of nominees for this year's Nobel Peace Prize includes plenty of individuals and organizations that probably deserve the award, along with two curious candidates that will almost certainly hog all of the media's attention: WikiLeaks and the Internet.

This year's field features a whopping 241 nominees, breaking the record of 237 set just last year. Notable candidates include former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, and Svetlana Gannushkina, founder of the Russian human rights group Memorial.

Then, there are the darlings of this year's field -- the two candidates guaranteed to raise questions and manufacture controversy about a decision ultimately made by five people in Norway. And, while WikiLeaks and the Internet are only two entries on a long, long list, the Nobel panel has made some pretty daring decisions in the past two years; it wouldn't be surprising if both nominees receive serious consideration.

The Internet, it seems, was nominated in light of the recent protests across the Middle East and North Africa, where many demonstrators used social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to communicate and mobilize. But giving the prize to the Internet may only stir more controversy. After all, how do you honor an entire network? Who would accept the award? Would the committee bestow it upon a recognizable face (Mark Zuckerberg? Biz Stone? Al Gore?), or one of the millions of less visible dissidents who actually did the heavy lifting? In other words, do you reward the platform, or the people?

The reasons for WikiLeaks' inclusion may seem less obvious, but recent history could shed some light on the logic underpinning the nomination. Should the committee tilt in favor of Julian Assange's organization, it would likely do so for many of the same reasons it gave the prize to Barack Obama in 2009. Its long-term global impact remains a mystery, and its track record on world peace may be comparatively short. But, it's still something the world has never seen, and its sheer existence is monumental enough to warrant mention. If WikiLeaks wins the Nobel Prize, it would be in recognition of an event, rather than an achievement, and in honor of its potential to change the world, rather than any tangible proof that it's already done so.

We'll all have plenty of time to mull this over in the coming months. The committee is scheduled to announce its laureate in October.

Tags: awards, facebook, Internet, JulianAssange, MiddleEast, NobelPeacePrize, norway, politics, prize, SocialNetworking, top, twitter, Web, Wikileaks