Aaron Swartz, “He was killed by the government”

I wanted to help bring attention to this.

For those that do not know, Aaron Swartz committed suicide on the 11th.

The EFF writes about Aaron;

Yesterday Aaron Swartz, a close friend and collaborator of ours, committed suicide. This is a tragic end to a brief and extraordinary life.

Aaron did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way. His contributions were numerous, and some of them were indispensable. When we asked him in late 2010 for help in stopping COICA, the predecessor to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills, he founded an organization called Demand Progress, which mobilized over a million online activists and proved to be an invaluable ally in winning that campaign.

Other projects Aaron worked on included the RSS specifications, web.py, tor2web, the Open Library, and the Chrome port of HTTPS Everywhere. Aaron helped launch the Creative Commons. He was a former co-founder at Reddit, and a member of the team that made the site successful. His blog was often a delight.

It’s this involvement in stopping COICA, the predecessor to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills, that I believe motivated the governments actions. A bit of “payback” if you will…

Of course there many others involved, but watch the keynote given by Aaron below. It gives some great insight into his involvement and why when given the opportunity, they went so hard after Aaron.

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web said at his funeral, “we felt the indictment was nonsense and that he would be acquitted. Read more

Gerry Smith writes;

But when Swartz was caught using MIT’s network to download academic journals and share them online, the university contacted law enforcement — which led to the involvement of the Secret Service — and helped federal authorities build their case against him.

Privately, several MIT officials expressed concerns that prosecutors were “overreaching” by charging Swartz with federal crimes that carried a sentence of up to 35 years in prison, according to a MIT employee familiar with the investigation.

But by then, it was too late. “By the time this thing snowballed out of MIT’s hands, it was gone,” said the employee, who asked not to be named because he still works at the university. “When the federal government chooses to prosecute, you don’t get to say no. Read more

When you watch the following keynote given by Aaron, you can understand why the government wanted their payback… The sheer embarrassment of the failure of SOPA was to much to let go “unpunished” in my opinion. You make your own mind up.

EDIT 27/02: Taren, Aaron’s partner writes about the news that the DOJ admits internally that the prosecution was politically motivated. I.e. to shut him up. Read more here: http://tarensk.tumblr.com/post/44047376234/doj-admits-aarons-prosecution-was-political

Aaron did more for your free speech than most of us ever will. We should be thankful for the work he did on our behalf and the others that continue to do so, thank you.

Published by Brendan

Brendan Piater is the founder of Arctic Online, a successful website design studio, Internet technologies expert, passionate conservationist, open source and free culture enthusiast, entrepreneur, expert spear-fisherman, ex-pineapple farmer and a rather good mackerel fisherman.

2 replies on “Aaron Swartz, “He was killed by the government””

  1. “When the federal government chooses to prosecute, you don’t get to say no.”

    Sure you do, all it takes is courage. Something lacking at MIT and something that should doom it to becoming a 3rd rate school. You don’t get to play at being “hacker Mecca” if you don’t have the cojones to back it up. Plenty of other technology colleges out there.

    1. I do hope it makes MIT think twice in the future before bring charges against someone else for wanting to share knowledge.

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