Saturday marked one year since the death of the internet activist Aaron Swartz. The 26-year-old, who was one of the builders of Reddit, killed himself in New York City on Friday 11 January 2013.
At the time of his death, Swartz was facing trial over charges of hacking arising from the downloading of millions of documents from the online research group JSTOR. He faced up to 50 years in prison.
On Saturday, the home page of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was hacked, reportedly by the Anonymous group. Last year Swartz’s family accused MIT and government prosecutors of being complicit in his death.
The hackers left a message on the site which read: “The day we fight back.” The website was later unavailable. MIT’s website was attacked by Anonymous last year.
The author and blogger Cory Doctorow, who a year ago published a lengthy tribute to Swartz, was one of a number of writers to mark Saturday’s anniversary. Writing on his boingboing.net website, Doctorow said: “I’ve been feeling pretty hopeless about the future lately, and I think a lot of it has been driven by the impending anniversary of Aaron’s death. The last couple years were hard ones.
“Aaron had a gift for identifying the problems that mattered, mapping a theory of change, and then taking it on, step by step. That approach allowed him to undertake challenges that many people, most people, would dismiss as impossible.”
The academic and author Lawrence Lessig is leading a protest march in memory of Swartz. The marchers set off on Saturday, aiming to walk across New Hampshire, the state which will host the first primary of the 2016 presidential election, to promote a campaign against “the system of corruption in Washington”.
In an article for the Atlantic, Lessig wrote: “A year ago tomorrow, Aaron Swartz left. He had wound us all up, pointed us in a million directions, we were all working as hard as we could, moving things forward. And then he was gone.”
Swartz died five months before Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, released details of the agency’s domestic and foreign surveillance activities to the Guardian and other media outlets. On Saturday, the Huffington Post published a clip from a forthcoming documentary about Swartz, The Internet’s Own Boy, in which he discusses his view of the NSA and its practices.
The Huffington Post quoted Swartz as saying: “It is shocking to think that the accountability is so lax that they don’t even have sort of basic statistics about how big the spying programme is. If the answer is, ‘Oh, we’re spying on so many people we can’t possibly even count them,’ then that’s an awful lot of people.”
Documents leaked by Snowden disclosed the NSA’s collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans.
On boingboing.net, Doctorow added: “It takes a tremendous human spirit to look at the failures of the institutions around us – from the breakdown of governmental checks and balances to its war on whistleblowers to the tremendous corporate influence on crafting anti-user policies – and not despair. Aaron taught us that we must not.
“He’s inspired people to take up big challenges not out of reckless optimism, but because he believed that if we can see the change we want in the world, we are powerful enough to make it happen. From Lawrence Lessig marching across New Hampshire to address corruption in politics, to public interest groups banding together for a day of action against NSA spying, that legacy lives on.”
source: Guardian UK