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Entrepreneur tours US for online campaign

Starting Oct. 3 in Denver, a campaign led by reddit.com’s co-creator, Alexis Ohanian, will travel by bus through five states before reaching Danville, Ky., on Oct. 11. Both cities are the sites of presidential and vice presidential debates, respectively, and the stops serve to highlight the main issues the campaign is hoping to address.

“We really wanted to expand upon the massive success we saw earlier this year with the defeat of SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act),” Ohanian said., “That huge support really fired us up and, when Erik (Martin, a colleague of Ohanian’s) saw we had an open schedule for the first presidential and vice presidential debates and enough time and land in-between, we figured a campaign like this was a great idea.”

Earlier this year, reddit served as the primary instigator of a huge event in the history of the Internet. On Jan. 18, reddit along with thousands of popular websites including Google, Wikipedia, Facebook and Craigslist, protested the Stop Online Piracy Act, otherwise known as SOPA, a bill voted on by Congress, to bring awareness to the infringement of rights the bill would impose upon Internet companies and users alike. The blackout did its job and millions of Americans contacted federal representatives in protest of the bill, which was eventually abandoned.

Weeks later the bill returned as the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA, with nearly the same intentions. While a blackout didn’t take place this time, enough people were already concerned by SOPA that the bill was also abandoned after thousands of calls and letters were received by members of Congress.

The tour plans to make a stop in Des Moines on Oct. 6. Ohanian and company will visit Des Moines-based startup, Dwolla, as well as lead an event they call the Iowa Internet Uncaucus 2012.

“Dwolla was started on the Net and they’re just one of thousands of companies innovating from their computers,” Ohanian said, “and the Uncaucus is for the people to voice their concerns on issues related to that sort of innovation. Without the free and open Internet, Dwolla would not and could not exist.”

The Iowa Internet Uncaucus, scheduled to take place on the Locust Street Bridge, between First and Second Streets in downtown Des Moines, will have 15 different speak for five minutes each on ideas pertaining to the regulation, censorship and accessibility of the Internet.

College students around the country and the world know the importance of the free flow of information allowed by an unrestricted Internet.

“An open Internet is important because with any sort of censorship you risk missing part of the full story,” said first-year, pre-pharmacy major Jake Powers. “If you’re only getting news from the government, for instance, they could be lying to your face, and you wouldn’t even know it.”

The open Internet also played an important role in 2011’s Arab Spring movement. Protestors in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen used the openness of modern social media tools like Facebook to raise awareness to the oppression and censorship that plagued the countries.

“Without the free access to social networking sites, protestors would have been unable to organize,” said first-year finance major Vivianna Lopez. “Thanks in part to sites like Facebook, Egypt was able to stage a massive protest and eventually force their corrupt president from power.”

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