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A free and open internet is the most efficient market place in the world and needs to be protected, according to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

The internet entrepreneur kicked off TNW 2012 in Amsterdam with a keynote that highlighted the power of the internet to innovate and create new businesses, and the threat posed to e-commerce by SOPA and CISPA.

Ohanian said Reddit was founded in 2005 and spent only $500 on advertising in six years, but achieved success due to its popularity online.

Similarly, the inspiration for DropBox came while its founder was sat on a bus with his laptop.

Ohanian said that online companies are able to innovate as the internet is a level playing field, but that is threatened by attempts by governments to control internet freedoms.

We value privacy and a right to free speech in the real world, this is fundamental to our democracy. For some reason the rules change online, when it’s digital, but free speech and privacy should be respected online as well.

He suggested that while Congress had temporarily shelved SOPA it was necessary to continue campaigning until internet freedoms were codified in law.

Had these bills been around in 2005 we would never have created Reddit. We need to continue fighting against them.

Ohanian said the campaign against SOPA highlighted the ability of internet users to change the news agenda, taking power away from major news corporations.

The blackout campaign achieved success despite the entertainment industry spending $185m on lobbying Washington in 2010.

Ohanian’s speech comes a week after EC vice president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes promised to free the internet from ‘digital handcuffs’ that stifle innovation.

Kroes said that the EU required new legislation to protect a free and open internet while also ensuring that copyright holders were properly recognised and rewarded.

David Moth

Published 26 April, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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