In memory of Aaron Swartz

Posted by David Konow

We just reported on the tragic death of Aaron Swartz, who took his life at the age of 26. Swartz co-created RSS when he was fourteen, and founded a company that eventually merged with Reddit.

Recently, Swartz was under fire for downloading 4.8 million articles from JSTOR, an MIT research service, and was facing many years in prison, as well as a hefty fine.

Swartz had suffered from depression, but in a statement to the press, his family blamed prosecutors for driving their son to suicide. The statement read, in part, "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 statement continued that, "Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles."
 
The Daily Beast also reported that MIT had dropped their charges against Swartz, but it sure didn’t stop a team of Anonymous hackers from getting into the MIT site and posting messages in memory of Swartz on Sunday, January 13.

The messages have since been taken down, but according to the Washington Post, one of them read, in part, "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."

 
As The Wrap reports, another statement from the hackers also read, "Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for, freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it, enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing an ideal that we should all support."
 
There is currently a website called rememberaaronsw, where you can read postings from all over remembering Aaron’s contribution to the world, and what he could have contributed further.

A blogger from the Philippines wrote, "Aaron, your passing leaves the world less free. As your legacy lives in us, may we unlock the world to the realities that not all of those who access the net are rich and capable and powerful, many are poor who need the same information and accessibility. You will be remembered!"

Another blogger wrote "I, like many, had heard of Aaron, admired his achievements and bemoaned his bullying by the powers that be. On behalf of every free thinking person thank you for your courage, insight, passion and progressive thinking. We understand the things you have done to protect the semblance of freedom we enjoy today.

"And I will also say thank you on behalf of all the thoughtless lemmings, and evil-doers who have also benefited from your accomplishments but don’t even have the capacity to understand or appreciate everything you have done. You paid with you life. The ultimate sacrifice. Thank you is not enough."

And maybe the New York Times summed it up best when the paper headlined its report, "Aaron Swartz, a Data Crusader and Now, a Cause."

Note: Aaron’s funeral will be held at 10am on Tuesday, January 15 at Central Avenue Synagogue, 874 Central Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035.