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Anonymous Honors Aaron Swartz by Hacking MIT

Posted on Jan 14, 2013
Flickr/EIFL: knowledge without boundaries

Anonymous added its own to the growing number of online memorials to Aaron Swartz, who reportedly hanged himself in his New York apartment Friday, by briefly taking over the website of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to eulogize the Internet activist. In its tribute to Swartz posted on MIT’s site, the hacktivist collective said it wanted to use “this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.”

Swartz, the 26-year-old prodigy who helped create RSS, co-founded Reddit and was instrumental in quashing the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act bill, was being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office on charges that he accessed MIT’s computer system to illegally obtain nearly 5 million JSTOR documents. For that, he faced more than 50 years in prison and $4 million in fines. Critics have accused the feds of being overzealous in their prosecution of Swartz.

His family released a statement Saturday placing part of the blame for Swartz’s death on the government and the university.

“Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death,” the statement read. “The U.S. Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”


After calling the prosecution of Swartz “a grotesque miscarriage of justice” and “a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section labeled “Our wishes:”

  -We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
  -We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
  -We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
  -We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.

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MIT’s website has since been restored, but you can read Anonymous’ tribute to Swartz here.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.


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