After redditors were unable to unseat their most-loathed member of Congress—Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) author Lamar Smith—it might have seemed like they didn’t have as much power to influence American national politics as they may have liked.
But maybe they can start smaller.
Enter 27-year-old Karlo Dizon. The politician, who’s running for the Democratic nomination to be Guam’s only representative in Congress, announced himself to Reddit Sunday by inviting the site’s users to ask him anything (AMA).
“Hi reddit. My local Congresswoman is a co-sponsor of CISPA [the Cyber Intelligence Security Protection Act] and was going to run unopposed in the upcoming primary elections and so I decided to run against her,” he wrote.
Dizon, despite being young, has an impressive resume, which includes a Yale degree in political science, work at the U.S. embassy in Manila, and time spent managing Barack Obama’s Guam campaign.
But he catered to Reddit specifically on the platform of protecting the Internet, and by formally opposing legislation that could hurt it, including SOPA, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), and CISPA.
“I think until Internet freedom becomes a real ‘voting issue’ that drives voters to the polls, we won't ever be free from the attacks to an open internet like SOPA, PIPA and CISPA. I hope my challenge is just the start of driving the message home to Congress that you do not mess with the Internet,” he wrote.
Guam, a U.S territory, can’t actually vote in Congress. It does, however, elect a delegate who can propose legislation, add amendments, and cosponsor legislation in the House of Representatives. A Democrat has held the position since 1993. Because, as Dizon noted, primary elections can have as few as 12,000 voters, a huge Internet campaign might deliver him a win.
Redditors were quick to offer contributions to Dizon’s campaign.
“You forgot the important part where you ask for money,” wrote CSMastermind, adding a link to the campaign’s donate page. “He's a good guy, we should get behind him.”
“I didn't want to make this about donations but we can definitely use the support,” Dizon wrote.
Some redditors, however, were suspicious of his goals.
“As someone who has been following this race quite closely, I have never once heard Mr. Dizon mention this issue as part of his campaign. But it's what Reddit cares about, so he's using it as a platform to get donations,” wrote ActuallyFromGuam. “Smart, if not entirely honest.”
Most, however, were excited at the possibility that politicians might start taking Internet freedom seriously as a campaign issue.
“This is a fantastic idea,” wrote dmxgrrbark. “Even if you don't get elected, I hope you help to create a wave of pressure that moves these evil politicians away from censorship due to fears of unelectability.”
Dizon’s campaign didn’t immediately return request for comment about how much money they’d received in Reddit donations, or how many redditors have since volunteered for his campaign.
He did, however, show a clear mastery of good Reddit rapport.
“You are a clever man and if I wasn't Canadian I would vote for you. Can I still donate?” asked user TMITLDR.
“Unfortunately no. I still accept your upvotes,” Dizon replied.
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