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Aaron Swartz of Reddit Commits Suicide

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Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Computer activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide in New York City yesterday, Jan. 11, according to his uncle, Michael Wolf, in a comment to The Tech. Swartz was 26.

“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech.

His Twitter feed indicates that he was a supporter of the Platinum Coin

it is a huge loss

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Submitted by lambert on

What Rick Perlstein said on FB

He volunteered to build me a website. I didn't know him then. He was the first one to read every Nixonland chapter as soon as they were finished. He was a hero. The government killed him.

I'm sure there are many more stories like this. A society that kills its Aaron Swartz's is not functional.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by lambert on

Boing Bong:

The post-Reddit era in Aaron's life was really his coming of age. His stunts were breathtaking. At one point, he singlehandedly liberated 20 percent of US law. PACER, the system that gives Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law, charged a fee for each such access. After activists built RECAP (which allowed its users to put any caselaw they paid for into a free/public repository), Aaron spent a small fortune fetching a titanic amount of data and putting it into the public domain. The feds hated this. They smeared him, the FBI investigated him, and for a while, it looked like he'd be on the pointy end of some bad legal stuff, but he escaped it all, and emerged triumphant.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

Submitted by lambert on

Diaspora....

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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Submitted by wuming on

Said Cory Doctorow in the NYT obit "“The fact that the U.S. legal apparatus decided he belonged behind bars for downloading scholarly articles without permission is as neat an indictment of our age — and validation of his struggle — as you could ask for.”
1000x yes.

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Submitted by lizpolaris on

killed outright? Hanging is a common way to use apparent suicide to mask homicide. In either case, he certainly pissed off some powerful, wealthy people by leading the effort to defeat SOPA/PIPA. I have the feeling these proposals will come roaring back now that Swartz is gone. Certain companies stand to make a ton of money off those bills if they get passed.

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Submitted by Rangoon78 on

Aaron Swartz, who co-founded Reddit and became an Internet folk hero for fighting to make online content free to the public, committed suicide Friday. He was 26.
Swartz hanged himself in his Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment, said a statement released by his family and his girlfriend.
"Aaron's commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life," the statement said. "He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place."
Alex Stamos, a computer security and forensics expert, was one of the expert witnesses in US v Swartz, the vindictive case brought against Aaron Swartz for walking into an unlocked computer closet, and downloading a large number of academic articles from JSTOR, using MIT's network. Stamos has very good perspective on the "crimes" for which Aaron was being hounded by the state:
* At the time of Aaron’s actions, the JSTOR website allowed an unlimited number of downloads by anybody on MIT’s 18.x Class-A network. The JSTOR application lacked even the most basic controls to prevent what they might consider abusive behavior, such as CAPTCHAs triggered on multiple downloads, requiring accounts for bulk downloads, or even the ability to pop a box and warn a repeat downloader.
* Aaron did not “hack” the JSTOR website for all reasonable definitions of “hack”. Aaron wrote a handful of basic python scripts that first discovered the URLs of journal articles and then used curl to request them. Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing “Save As” from your favorite browser.
* Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity, as evidenced by his very verbose .bash_history, his uncleared browser history and lack of any encryption of the laptop he used to download these files. Changing one’s MAC address (which the government inaccurately identified as equivalent to a car’s VIN number) or putting a mailinator email address into a captured portal are not crimes. If they were, you could arrest half of the people who have ever used airport wifi.
* The government provided no evidence that these downloads caused a negative effect on JSTOR or MIT, except due to silly overreactions such as turning off all of MIT’s JSTOR access due to downloads from a pretty easily identified user agent.
* I cannot speak as to the criminal implications of accessing an unlocked closet on an open campus, one which was also used to store personal effects by a homeless man. I would note that trespassing charges were dropped against Aaron and were not part of the Federal case.
Aaron hanged himself two years, to the day, after his arrest. The DoJ asked for the maximum penalty: 30 years.

Lawrence Lessig:

Aaron had literally done nothing in his life “to make money.” He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

Glenn Greenwald:

Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a "justice" system that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are members of or useful to the nation's most powerful factions, but punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack power and, most of all, those who challenge power.

Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and comfort. He chose instead to fight - selflessly, with conviction and purpose, and at great risk to himself - for noble causes to which he was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn't an example of heroism; it's the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It's the attribute our country has been most lacking.

I always found it genuinely inspiring to watch Swartz exude this courage and commitment at such a young age. His death had better prompt some serious examination of the DOJ's behavior - both in his case and its warped administration of justice generally. But his death will also hopefully strengthen the inspirational effects of thinking about and understanding the extraordinary acts he undertook in his short life.

UPDATE
From the official statement of Swartz's family:

"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US 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."

This sort of unrestrained prosecutorial abuse is, unfortunately, far from uncommon. It usually destroys people without attention or notice. Let's hope - and work to ensure that - the attention generated by Swartz's case prompts some movement toward accountability and reform.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-0113-aaron-swartz-20130113,...

http://boingboing.net/2013/01/13/expert-witness-describes-aaron.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/aaron-swartz-heroism...