Anyone who frequents the Internet on a regular basis clearly remembers the SOPA and PIPA bills that caused web frenzy two months ago. The protest of these bills included the blackout of sites that we college students use frequently — including Wikipedia, Craig’s List, and the increasingly popular social news platform known as Reddit.
On Tuesday evening, co-founder of Reddit.com Alexis Ohanian visited Georgetown to share his view of the two bills and the future of web privacy. As a technologist with an obvious passion for the Internet and its ability to provide equal opportunities and solutions, Ohanian voiced his frustration with the legislation in Congress.
“Both of these laws threaten to destroy the Internet, and to make matters worse, they won’t even curb piracy,” Ohanian emphatically stated. “How come Congress can’t seem to agree on anything that matters in this country?”
Ohanian argued that his success would not have been possible if these laws existed:
The reason why Steve and I, two recent college graduates with no connections, no authority, and no reason whatsoever to be starting a company that now has as much, if not more, traffic than the New York times front page—the reason that all works is because the Internet is a truly level playing field.
He also took the opportunity to thank the students with habits of procrastination. “Last month Reddit had 35 million unique visitors and 2.5 billion page views,” he said. “All of you are very unproductive; thank you so much for that.”
Ohanian also noted that many of the representatives voting on the bills had a very unclear view of what they actually did. “The laws had very broad and very vague language. The language was clearly not written by technologists, it was clearly written by lobbyists,” he stated. Seeing this, Ohanian decided to involve himself in the politics of the situation as it became clear that the issue needed attention from Internet activists. Through collaborative efforts between Ohanian and other business leaders, awareness was created that rippled across the entire country.
With a picture of Gandalf Greyhame from Lord of the Rings behind him, Ohanian said, “All of us on the Internet simply said, these bills shall not pass. We’ve shown that we can be against terrible legislation.”