WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has finished as a runner-up to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as Time's 2010 Person of the Year.
The recognition, of course, is the least of the hacker-turned-whistleblower's concerns right now given that he's under house arrest in England following an arrest warrant issued by Swedish officials who want to question him regarding two rape allegations. Assange, an Australian, has been granted bail but remains in custody pending an appeal by Swedish authorities.
Assange and his legal term assert that his arrest on Dec. 7 is related to WikiLeaks recent release of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables.
Assange and WikiLeaks have elicited widely varying reactions, being condemned by U.S. government officials but defended by the Internet Society (at least in terms of speaking out against online attacks on the WikiLeaks site) and praised by Pentagon Papers exposer Daniel Ellsberg.
The public appetite for the WikiLeaks story has been strong, with AOL finding WikiLeaks to be among the most searched terms of the year. Meanwhile, an online hacktivist group called Anonymous has claimed responsibility for knocking offline Websites that have cut ties with WikiLeaks. The attacks have also sparked fresh discussion about defending against distributed denial-of-service attacks.
Of WikiLeaks, Time writes: "In 2010, WikiLeaks became a revolutionary force, wresting secrets into the public domain on a scale without precedent. Assange and company wrought deep disruptions in the marketplace of state power, much as tech-savvy insurgents before them had disrupted markets in music, film and publishing. The currency of information, scattered to the four corners of the globe, is roiling not only U.S. foreign relations but also the alliances and internal politics of other nations."
Rounding out Time's 2010 Person of the Year runners-up are the Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, the Tea Party and the Chilean Miners.
As for winner Zuckerberg, Time writes: "Facebook has merged with the social fabric of American life, and not just American but human life: nearly half of all Americans have a Facebook account, but 70 per cent of Facebook users live outside the U.S. It's a permanent fact of our global social reality. We have entered the Facebook age, and Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here."
Zuckerberg is the techiest choice for the honor since Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com won in 1999. Intel's Andy Grove (1997) and The Computer (1982) have been other tech-related winners.
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