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Should the Internet win the Nobel Peace Prize?

Should the Internet win the Nobel Peace Prize?

We can all agree that the Internet is powerful. But, has it helped our world be a more peaceful place? If you believe the Italian edition of Wired magazine, the answer is "yes." The publication has nominated the Internet for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.

"The Internet can be considered the first weapon of mass construction, which we can deploy to destroy hate and conflict and to propagate peace and democracy," Wired Italy Editor-in-Chief Riccardo Luna stated in an official press release on the Internet For Peace website. "What happened in Iran after the latest election, and the role the web played in spreading information that would otherwise have been censored, are only the newest examples of how the Internet can become a weapon of global hope."

Not everyone is championing the Net for arguably the most recognized honour in the world. Critics raise such questions as, if it should win, who would actually receive the prize? On the Foreign Policy website researcher and blogger Evgeny Morozov argues against what he says would be rewarding people who acted in commercial interests whose invention just happened to be used for a noble purpose. In a Feb. 6 opinion piece on theTimes of India website, Anil Thakkar wrote:

"The Nobel Prize is a celebration of human excellence. It recognizes the extraordinary heights that the intellect and spirit are capable of achieving. To hand it out to what is essentially a technology – a medium of communication – is to make mockery of the entire exercise."

The Nobel Peace Prize, and the four other Nobel Prizes, were established in the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. His will states the Peace Prize should be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses," according to the Nobel Prize website. Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize receive the gold Nobel medal, a diploma and a monetary award of about $1.4 million.

Each year the Norwegian Nobel Committee invites select people to nominate candidates for the award. The nominators include former peace laureates, members of national governments and selected university professors. The Internet’s nomination might have some weight as 2003 peace laureate and exiled Iranian activist Shirin Ebadi has signed its nominating petition.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee does not make the nominations public until 50 years after the fact but several backers of the contenders of the award have made announcements. Other nominees include Russian human right activist Svetlana Gannushkina and recently jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose nomination is opposed by the Chinese government.

Last year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded, in a somewhat controversial move, to U.S. President Barack Obama. Past winners of the award include Mother Teresa (1979), the United Nations (2001), former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (2002), Doctors Without Borders (1999), and former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev (1990), South African civil right leader Nelson Mandela and President of the Republic of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk (awarded jointly in 1993).

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