A Nobel Peace Prize for Twitter?

    July 17, 2009

I have been covering Internet business and webmaster news for nearly 10 years now. If I have learned anything over the course of the past decade it is that you just never know what you can expect to see in Internet news every day.  Most recent case in point, Twitter’s consideration for a Nobel Peace prize.

That’s right. A Nobel Peace Prize. For Twitter. Mark Pfeifle at the Christian Science Monitor writes; “Without Twitter, the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy.” As impressive as that sounds, I am left feeling a little suspect about the validity of the claim. Call me jaded, but I just really have a hard time thinking that proponents of democracy in the Middle East looked at Twitter and thought to themselves “Now’s our chance!”.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. I use it all the time, but let’s not get too carried away here folks. Does anybody really think Twitter is going to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East? Hey, I hope I’m wrong and it does, then it can move right on to ending hunger and curing cancer… 

Beyond the fact that I believe the reasoning behind Twitter’s Nobel Prize qualification is a tad specious. There is also the fact that Twitter isn’t a person…  it’s a platform.  Do we really want to start awarding Nobel Prizes to things? Where are we going to draw that line? If you want to credit Twitter with enabling the fight for democracy in Iran, then by the same line of reasoning, why wouldn’t we want to also nominate iPhones (or whatever device the Iranians used to do their Tweeting). 

TwitterThen again, maybe singling out the iPhone or any one device would be unfair too. I doubt all of the Iranian Twitterers were sporting the same hardware. So, maybe by that rationale, we would need to nominate ‘Cell Phones’ for the Nobel Peace prize. That doesn’t work though, does it?  Not all cell phones even have web access so we can’t really credit them for enabling the fight for democracy in Iran.

Well, how about just ‘The Internet’ then? Twitter is part of the Internet.  You can’t have a Twitter without the web can you?  But who do we give an award to? Tim Berners-Lee?  Vint Cerf?  Al Gore?

I just don’t think much of the idea.  If you wanted to talk about the Twitter founders maybe being deserving of a nomination I guess that would have been a little better. Although, I don’t think too many folks in Iran could come up with Jack Dorsey’s name if they had to.  I could be wrong about Jack, I have never met the man, but I doubt he has spent a lot of time in the Middle East. 

I guess at the end of the day, I have two main problems with nominating Twitter for a Nobel peace prize.  First, it isn’t a person. Twitter is a platform. To me that’s like nominating McDonald’s french fries for a pulitzer because so many writers enjoy them. Second ‘it’ didn’t ‘do’ anything.  Twitter didn’t do anything in Iran. Twitter never marched, Twitter made no signs, Twitter itself didn’t do a single thing in Iran. The Iranians did. To be perfectly honest, I rather think nominating ‘Twitter’ for a peace prize because of what somebody else did with it borders on an insult to the people that did the tweeting.