Aaron Swartz, the gifted Internet prodigy who was a co-founder of Reddit and a very active member of the Creative Commons team committed suicide on Saturday. The reason is claimed to be the actions taken by the federal prosecutors and MIT to put him behind bars for an alleged crime. To display of its retaliation against MIT’s involvement in the entire saga, hacktivist group Anonymous has defaced MIT’s website.
The entire episode surrounding Swartz’s death is utterly saddening. Swartz was involved in the download of millions of documents from MIT and JSTOR. Downloading the journals is deemed perfectly legal by both institutions, but mass downloading of articles by Swartz triggered the alarm.
Eventually, Swartz returned the data to JSTOR and never published any journal he downloaded from the source. But MIT decided to pursue federal charges against him, seeking to slap him with a fine of $1 million and possibly 35 years in jail.
It is because of this, the web has virtually united in criticizing the overuse of rights by both MIT and U.S. prosecutors in the entire case. MIT, naturally, was quick to restore its PR and immediately stated that it would launch a “thorough analysis” of its involvement in Swartz’s suicide.
To register its own retaliation, Anonymous has defaced MIT’s website, demanding that an immediate change be made to the laws governing copyrights. The hacktivist group further calls for the recognition of oppression perpetuated by the U.S. government and other influential institutions (It has been repeatedly cited that Swartz was pushed to this point by the federal prosecutors because he was a key activist against SOPA).