The results of the TIME 100 poll are out and, just as you would expect from an internet poll, the internet has won. The week-long poll, which seeks to determine the most influential people of the past year, was topped by the nebulous hacker collective Anonymous. TIME reports that Anonymous jumped from third place to first in a matter of 24 hours. The group went from having around 40,000 votes to more than 395,000.
Throughout the past year Anonymous, or those claiming to be associated with Anonymous (which might be the same thing), were prolific in their exploits. In just the past month Anonymous has been blamed for attacks on Chinese government websites, the UK Home Office web site, and the Vatican's website. Perhaps a non-cohesive group of hackers is behind this, or perhaps Anonymous has truly won by becoming the banner underneath which hacktivists can claim allegiance. Regardless of the explanation, hacktivism is certainly on the rise.
Coming in at second place was Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit.com. Reddit is the social news website that allows users to "upvote" or "downvote" stories, pictures, videos, and even user comments. Reddit saw enormous growth during the past year and was a major factor in the success of the SOPA online blackout protests. In December of last year the site received more than 2 Billion pageviews, a testament to the site's growing popularity.
So what does it say that the internet has elected the two of the most outspoken critics of internet censorship to the top of such an influential poll? Two different communities, Anonymous the unknown, anarchic mass of capable hackers and Reddit a pure democracy of young internet users, both in their own ways fighting government legislation that would censor or gate speech on the web. Although TIME editors will have the final say on who is the most influential person of the past year, hopefully someone will take notice that very disparate online groups were able to come together in protest and draw a line in the sand for speech on the web. It seems the free flow of data on the web is something that won't die easily.