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Mark Zuckerberg Beats Out Julian Assange for Time‘s ‘Person of the Year’

So Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is Time‘s “Person of the Year“, huh? Let’s be honest: Zuckerberg was the “Person of the Year” because Hollywood made a cool, largely fictional film about him. Facebook hasn’t changed much since 2009. And as powerful and important as Facebook has become, its growth in the past year is nowhere near as interesting or important as what WikiLeaks has accomplished over the same time.

Julian Assange was, however, a “runner-up” to Zuckerberg. Here’s how Time’s Barton Gellman describes the man:

[A] great deal can be said about Assange, much of it unpleasant. He is inclined to the grandiose. Contempt for nearly every authority drives his work, and unguarded e-mails — leaked, naturally — reveal hopes that transparency will bring “total annihilation of the current U.S. regime.” In London, he is fighting extradition to face allegations in Sweden that he sexually assaulted two WikiLeaks supporters.
Isn’t, you know, “contempt for nearly every authority” supposed to be what drives journalism? Would he prefer sycophantic boosterism? Because there’s plenty of that from the Washington press corps.
Anyway, you can read Time‘s case for Zuckerberg here. Perhaps more interesting is this rather forced comparison between the two.
In a sense, Zuckerberg and Assange are two sides of the same coin. Both express a desire for openness and transparency. While Assange attacks big institutions and governments through involuntary transparency with the goal of disempowering them, Zuckerberg enables individuals to voluntarily share information with the idea of empowering them. Assange sees the world as filled with real and imagined enemies; Zuckerberg sees the world as filled with potential friends. Both have a certain disdain for privacy: in Assange’s case because he feels it allows malevolence to flourish; in Zuckerberg’s case because he sees it as a cultural anachronism, an impediment to a more efficient and open connection between people.
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