Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TIME Person of the Year: Some like it hot, some like it not

This year's choice for TIME Magazine's Person of the Year award has spawned varied opinions. While some people like it hot and agree with the TIME panelists' pick of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, many people like it not.
Some like it hot. Columnist and book author Meghan McCain definitely likes it hot. She defends the choice by saying that Zuckerberg's success in reaching over half a billion Facebook users is an unsurpassed achievement no other social networks had done. With the release of the box office hit The Social Network, the 26-year-old billionaire clearly became the first true millennial rockstar. She said, "I believe that Mark Zuckerberg is theHenry Ford of our times and Facebook is the Model-T." When asked why she did not choose the Australian WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, McCain said that the decision to reveal military information was "un-American" and likened the man to a Bond villain.
Together with Richard Stengel (TIME managing editor), Daisy Kahn (executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement), Joe Trippi (political consultant), Marissa Mayer (Google vice president of geographic and local services), Wyclef Jean(musician, producer), McCain is one of the magazine's panelists who decided this year's honor.
Some like it not. On the other hand, Boston-based blogger and activist Jillian York likes it not. She thinks that for this year the creator of Facebook was marred with criticisms for ever-changing the site's privacy policy. York said that Facebook is often "too Western" to be used by people around the globe, which may pose danger to its users. She cited Facebook's policy of using of real names, which Zuckerberg believes that having more than one identity is "an example of a lack of integrity."
York asserted that while that strategy might work for others, it will not be useful for those who are living under authoritarian rule. The policy could endanger the lives of Facebook users for such "transparency." She gave an example of an Egyptian anti-torture group with 400,000 strong members that was banned from Facebook because the administrator did not use his real name. York argued that whereas the young billionaire may believe that the administrator "lacked the integrity" for using a pseudonym, the use of one's real name does not guarantee security.
Another issue against Zuckerberg was the revelation in October that Facebook violated the terms of privacy by sharing user information to third-party applications. Also, Facebook changed users' default privacy settings earlier this year.
According to the popular magazine, the Person of the Year is more of a recognition of a person or persons who have "done the most to influence events of the year," and not really an award.
A political decision? TIME is clear that its editors reserve the right to disagree with popular opinion. However, the public suspects that the pick was politically-motivated in lieu of Assange's current controversies.
A few weeks before the announcement of the annual honor on Wednesday, TIME conducted an Internet survey, which was participated by over 1.2 million respondents. At the end of the online poll, Zuckerberg landed on the tenth place with 18,353 votes. WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange easily topped the race with 382,026 votes.
Or a business decision? York also mentioned that the choice might have been a business decision when it was found that about 66% of Americans believe that the WikiLeaks founder should face criminal charges. Selecting Assange might repeat the 1979 history when the magazine lost thousands of subscriptions after proclaiming Ayatollah Khomeini Man of the Year.
York questions the choice: Why only now? Facebook hit its peak in 2008 as the most popular Website. It might have made sense two years ago, but this year, Facebook has faced a lot of criticisms over privacy issues. And with the people talking about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, TIME's choice does not make sense.
Here are some tweets regarding this issue:
@Nicolucci1899 Guy Nicolucci: The Editors of Time magazine pick Mark Zuckerberg as Man of the Year.... because their grandkids told them he was cool.
@ggreenwald Glenn Greenwald: In TIME's Person of the year poll, Assange received 382,000 votes - Mark Zuckerberg received 18,000 - only 20 times less!
@AlissaInPink Alissa: Yes. It is. RT @elektrik788: Mark Zuckerberg is TIME's Person of the Year? Is FB really that serious?
@hblodget Henry Blodget: Enough outrage about wimpy pick for Person of Year: Assange definitely person-of-the-month. But over last 12, Zuckerberg has him beat.
@nickmalcolm Nick Malcolm: Yo Mark Zuckerberg. I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish but JulianAssange was clearly the Time Person Of The Year.
@KCbakes Kim Celano: Just saw this stat about Facebook: "A twelfth of humanity has an account." That is crazyyyy, no wonder Zuck is Time's Person of the Year!
@Larry_Morgan Larry Morgan: Mark Zuckerberg is Time's Man of the Year! Nice to finally see a rich white guy from Harvard making something of himself.
@dsilverman Dwight Silverman: Pick of Zuckerberg isn't as cringeworthy as when Time named "You" PoTY. Ugh.
Author's note: The Internet survey did not serve its purpose. What was the reason for the online voting if the participants' choice will not be heard? Clearly, TIME wasted their readers' time.

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