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Mon Jan 14, 2013, 10:31 PM

Today we are all Aaron Swartz

The suicide of the 26-year-old hacktivist highlights how our technophobic government demonizes geeks

Large swaths of the Internet are in mourning today for Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old hacktivist who took his own life last week. I didn't know Aaron or much about him besides the thumbnail sketch that has now been repeated thousands of times across the Web. But it's a heck of a thumbnail.

At age 14, Swartz invented Really Simple Syndication (RSS), which revolutionized how blogs were distributed and consumed. As a Stanford undergrad he started Infogami, a wiki platform later absorbed into Reddit -- and made him independently wealthy when Reddit was bought by Condé Nast in 2006. Swartz helped to develop the Creative Commons standard that governs copyright and fair use for millions of websites. More recently, he had been attempting to bring the "information wants to be free" ethos into reality, breaking into closed systems of information and trying to open them to the public.

On Friday evening, Swartz hanged himself in his New York apartment with his own belt, leaving no note. His death has been attributed to the combination of a lifelong battle with depression and Swartz's realization that he would soon have to do prison time for a crime he committed as an act of hacktivism.

...

The more I read about this, the angrier I become. Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard Law professor who was both friend and advisor to Swartz, sums up the outrage rather nicely:


Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor's behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The "property" Aaron had "stolen," we were told, was worth "millions of dollars" -- with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.


...

Here, instead of a racial divide there's a cultural one, with the forces of law and government on one side, geeks on the other. Yes, government has its own troves of geeks, but they're generally not the ones writing laws or making policy. By and large, those who are creating legislation and turning the creaky wheels of justice not only don't understand technology, they're afraid of it. These are not crimes they or their well-connected cronies would ever commit; who cares what happens to those who do?

So when a massive international bank is found to be laundering money for terrorists and drug cartels, it gets a hefty fine, which is of course paid by its customers and shareholders. No executive gets to wear an orange jumpsuit. Nobody at HSBC is looking at doing 35 minutes in jail, let alone 35 years, not even in one of those Club Fed prisons where bad rich white men who got caught are forced to play tennis. They don't even lose their country club memberships or the keys to the Lexus.

But when a skinny kid with a laptop downloads papers nobody other than a few miserable doctoral candidates will ever read, the feds bring out the big guns. What's wrong with this picture? Everything.


http://www.infoworld.com/t/cringely/today-we-are-all-aaron-swartz-210804?source=IFWNLE_nlt_daily_2013-01-14

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Arrow 4 replies Author Time Post
Reply Today we are all Aaron Swartz (Original post)
FarCenter Jan 2013 OP
dkf Jan 2013 #1
Loudly Jan 2013 #2
lunasun Jan 2013 #3
AnOhioan Jan 2013 #4

Response to FarCenter (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 10:38 PM

1. Yes we are.

 

Who pays for the research in academic journals anyway? Isn't it most likely the federal or other Government entity?

Swartz is right. I sure hope we do something positive in his memory. Moreover, what our money has enabled, we should be entitled to.

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Response to FarCenter (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 10:47 PM

2. Aaron Schwartz made a choice which should be made available...

 

Aaron Schwartz made a choice which should be made available...

To every incarcerated person.

He made that choice because of what living had in store for him.

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Response to FarCenter (Original post)

Mon Jan 14, 2013, 10:47 PM

3. amy goodman covered this well tonight on my radio

with interviews etc. I was doing sometyhing else but listening
I believe no direct comment from MIT to the show but MIT hadreleased a statement on Sunday about the suicide of Swartz, announcing that the university will conduct an internal investigation into the school's role in Swartz's death.
Lessig's interview was very moving
sad
when I have time I will relisten

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