Facebook Chief: TIME Man of Year

Jewish-born Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, one of the planet’s youngest billionaires, has been named TIME Magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year.

Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 15:11

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg
Israel news photo: Facebook screenshot

Jewish-born Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, one of the planet’s youngest billionaires, has been named TIME Magazine’s 2010 Person of the Year.

The honor, according to the magazine, is awarded to an individual who “for better or worse…. has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

The 26-year-old computer scientist and software developer created the social networking site with classmate co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin and Chris Hughes while they were all students at Harvard University.

A self-described atheist, Zuckerberg is one of four children born to a Jewish mother and father. He had his Bar Mitzvah at age 13 in Dobbs Ferry, New York, where he was raised.

Zuckerberg was also chosen this year as Vanity Fair’s Number One on its 2010 List of Top 100 “Most Influential People of the Information Age.”

Controversial Choice
The pick has not been without controversy, however. Major media in the United States have been complaining that the honor should have gone to Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.

Poll results published by TIME itself indicated that readers picked Assange as their Number One choice for the annual award.

Numerous columnists contended that 2010 was the year of Assange, whose WikiLeaks may have changed the course of world history by releasing to the public Top Secret and Classified U.S. government documents.

Richard Stengel of TIME explained the magazine’s choice, writing in this week’s edition, “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.”

Stengel further emphasized the magazine’s clear preference for a positive slant over a negative in its choice of Zuckerberg: “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.”

Punishment for the Cause
Facebook and its founders have not gone unpunished for that disdain for privacy. On May 19, Facebook was temporarily blocked in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan until a “Draw Muhammad” contest was removed from its website at the end of the month.

In June 2010, the Pakistani government launched a criminal investigation into the social networking site in connection with the contest. Also named in the probe was the anonymous German woman who had created the competition.

Pakistan’s Deputy Attorney General, Muhammad Azhar Sidiqque, filed a request with Interpol to arrest Zuckerberg and his partners for blasphemy. In addition, he asked Pakistan’s representative to the United Nations to raise the issue at the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.