The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Tuesday revealed that 241 nominees are in the run for 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. While whistleblower website WikiLeaks' candidacy came as no surprise, Internet has also popped up in the race for the Peace Prize. Furthermore, there are indications that social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter could take home the world's top accolade for their contribution towards pro-democracy protests in the Middle East and North Africa. With websites emerging as the frontrunners, the Internet or the world wide web dominates the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize race.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has received valid nominations of 241 different individuals and organizations for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2011, the Nobel Committee announced in a statement, adding that 53 of these are organizations.

This is the highest number of nominations ever received. The previous record was 237 different candidates, in 2010, the statement noted.

Besides WikiLeaks and the Internet, the known nominees include Afghan rights advocate Sima Samar, the European Union, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, Russian rights group Memorial and its founder Svetlana Gannushkina, Reuters reported.

WikiLeaks, no surprise

WikiLeaks was first tipped as a worthy candidate for Nobel Prize by Russia after the anti-secrecy website founded and run by an Australian hacker, Julian Assange, released over 250,000 classified diplomatic cables inviting the ire of the U.S. government and other authorities across the world.

As the deadline for the Nobel nominations neared, there was a strong buzz amoung the Nobel circuits and observers on the possibility of WikiLeaks scoring a nomination for the prize.

In early February, a member of the Parliament of Norway revealed that he nominated WikiLeaks for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

It is always easier to support freedom of speech when the one who speaks agree with you politically. This is one of the tests on liberal and democratic values that governments tend to fail. For instance, western governments have a long history on tolerating oppressive regimes that are friendly-minded. Internet companies assist China in censoring search engines. And many countries respond to Wikileaks' obvious right to publish material that is of public interest, by seeking to shoot the messenger, Snorre Valen, a member of the Socialist Left party, wrote in his blog post, titled 'Why I nominated WikiLeaks for the Nobel Peace Prize'.

The parliamentarian also hailed the anti-secrecy website's contribution to Tunisian 'Jasmine' Revolution, which in turn sparked off a wave of protests in Arab nations, including Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain. The anti-government protests then spread to Libya. It even touched Asia with Chinese dissidents trying to launch a protest but only to be muzzled.

By disclosing the economic arrangements by the presidential family in Tunisia, Wikileaks have made a small contribution to bringing down a 24-year-lasting dictatorship, he argued for WikiLeaks.

Internet and Social Media

WikiLeaks was not the only website that helped spark the protests which ended decades-long autocractic rule in Tunisia and Egypt. The credit for the protests across the Middle East and North Africa also goes to the social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which were widely used to organise and mobilize protests in these countries.

After the protests took off, these platforms also turned into grounds on which civilians were able to narrate the realities of the protests to sympathisers across the globe, even as the authorities tried to gag all media of communication as well as news reporting.

Furthermore, the tales of the protesters are set to be immortalized through crowdsourced documentaries tailored together by the footage uploaded over the period of time on the Internet.

These pro-democracy protests have now come to be hailed as the new revoltion of the present generation - that Thomas Jefferson envisioned with his famous remark Every generation needs a new revolution. With the revolution being critically sustained by the social media sites, there have been questions in the recent past as to why sites Twitter and Facebook should not be considered for Nobel for facilitating pro-democracy protests in countries reeling under decade long totalitarian rules.

Nobel Peace Prize, no stranger to controversies

Although there are concerns that the controversial nature of these Internet-based nominations might affect the choice, the Nobel Peace Prize is no stranger to controversies. The committee has had several controversial picks in the past, including the selection of US President Barack Obama, which came just months after he took power, and the jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaob, who was awarded in 2010 despite strong protests from the communist nation against honoring a 'dissident'.