Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, has a message for Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, author of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA): "Don't Mess With the Internet." And because everything's bigger in Texas, Ohanian wants to put that message on a giant billboard in Rep. Smith's proverbial backyard -- his home district.
Ohanian estimates that the billboard would cost approximately $15,000. To raise that kind of scratch, he's turning to some of his closest Internet friends on the Crowdtilt crowdfunding platform. More than 70 donors have contributed to the billboard campaign, being run by Ohanian's social enterprise Breadpig, has raised 100% of the $15,000 goal as of Thursday morning.
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Ohanian credited the idea to Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit and Holmes Wilson, co-founder of FightForTheFuture.org.
"This all happened within a couple of days," Ohanian says. "I was exchanging emails with Erik (Martin), and he was having a conversation with Holmes Wilson about erecting a statue in Rep. Smith's home district -- but it was clear that would be difficult to say the least. That conversation turned into, 'well, why not a billboard?'"
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What will the billboard look like? That's up to the Reddit community to decide. Ohanian asked his community to come up with the design in a Reddit thread. But here's the draft version, a riff on the "Don't Mess With Texas" slogan from Rep. Smith's home state:
The slogan came from the name of a gathering held by Ohanian at SXSW. But he made it clear that it was by no means a victory party.
"(The party) was a chance for all of us who have been talking about protecting the Internet to get together in a more relaxed setting," Ohanian says. "There's still plenty of work to be done. Now we can work together to protect our online rights, because nearly all of us in America value our freedom online and, well -- we don’t want it messed with."
Crowdtilt is similar to Kickstarter, with one major difference: whereas Kickstarter is intended for raising large sums of money from the general public, Crowdtilt allows close-knit circles to pool smaller amounts of cash for a common goal.
"We built Crowdtilt to be a Kickstarter for groups of friends," says CEO & Co-Founder James Beshara. "Instead of putting up a $40,000 documentary, it's for friends to collect money to buy a $1,400 party bus or a $1,300 group vacation. It's a concept of 'groupfunding' instead of 'crowdfunding.'"
According to Beshara, the second day of Ohanian's billboard campaign was his site's busiest-ever traffic day since launching a year ago. Ohanian says he'd like to have the billboard up by May, if not sooner.
What's next for Ohanian and his Internet-defending compatriots?
"We’ve been really pleased to see the response after Jan. 18," Ohanian says, in reference to the day when sites such as Reddit and Wikipedia blacked out to protest SOPA. "There are now many more representatives and senators whose ear we have. The tech community is being asked what we’d like. . .we're working on an online bill of rights -- we’d like to codify the rights we enjoy offline to rights we can enjoy online."
"Oh, and ponies for everyone," says Ohanian.
This story originally published on Mashable here.