Anonymous Hackers Hit MIT Following Aaron Swartz's Suicide

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After Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide on Friday, members of Anonymous defaced MIT's Web site with a statement calling for legal reforms.

"Lacking the loose-knit group's usual feisty language, the message posted on the Web site was a call for reform in the memory of the late Internet activist," writes CNET News' Steven Musil.

Anonymous listed the following "wishes" in its statement, which was also published on Pastebin:

  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered Internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.

"Swartz was arrested two years ago after allegedly using a laptop stashed at MIT to access JSTOR, an archive of academic journals, with a custom Python script and downloading 4.8 million articles. ... Although JSTOR wasn't interested in pressing charges, the government proceeded with the indictment," writes The Register's Brid-Aine Parnell. "Swartz's lawyer, Elliot Peters, was attempting to negotiate a plea bargain with prosecutors, but they remained insistent that he would have to spend time in prison."

"He was challenging the idea that access to academic documents should be confined to the elite, [Peters] said in an interview," writes Bloomberg's Aaron Ricadela. "'He was trying to make a point,' Peters said. 'He was certainly agitated about the case before him and was scared of what they were trying to do to him.'"

In a statement, Swartz's family and partner wrote, "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 U.S. 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. Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost."

"Academics paid tribute as well, posting links on Twitter to copyright-protected articles with the hashtag #pdftribute," writes The New York Times' Nicole Perlroth. "By Sunday evening, a site set up to collect their material included more than 1,500 links to academic and research articles."