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Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz58 posts

Aaron Swartz was an American entrepreneur and internet activist. He was known as one of the early members of Reddit and for helping to create the RSS specification. He had been charged with stealing computer documents from MIT but before the trial he committed suicide on Jan 11, 2013, at the age of 26.


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7 Jan, 2015

White House petition response

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The White House responds to a petition to fire two federal officials involved in the Swartz’s prosecution by refusing the request:

Aaron Swartz’s death was a tragic, unthinkable loss for his family and friends. Our sympathy continues to go out to those who were closest to him, and to the many others whose lives he touched. We also reaffirm our belief that a spirit of openness is what makes the Internet such a powerful engine for economic growth, technological innovation, and new ideas. That’s why members of the Administration continue to engage with advocates to ensure the Internet remains a free and open platform as technology continues to disrupt industries and connect our communities in ways we can’t yet imagine.

As to the specific personnel-related requests raised in your petitions, our response must be limited. Consistent with the terms we laid out when we began We the People, we will not address agency personnel matters in a petition response, because we do not believe this is the appropriate forum in which to do so.

10 Nov, 2014



Kevin Poulsen, a contributing editor at Wired, launched swartzfiles.com, a compilation of documents, photographs and videos related to Swartz that are released by the U.S. Secret Service under his ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency. According to Poulsen, the Secret Service is releasing a new batch of documents approximately every other month. The site also includes FOIA documents released by the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, and documents voluntarily released by MIT and JSTOR.

27 Jun, 2014

Documentary release

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ASThe Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz premieres in theaters and On Demand.

1 Jan, 2014

Father wants MIT to admit its part in son’s death


Boston Magazine reports that Bob Swartz he pleaded with MIT’s administrators and lawyers to intervene, MIT took a position of “neutrality.” It made no public statements for or against Aaron’s prosecution or about whether he should be imprisoned. He can’t walk through campus without feeling that MIT betrayed his son.

“I always felt that MIT would act in a reasonable and compassionate way and that MIT wasn’t the issue,” Bob says. “I didn’t understand the depths of what MIT had done at that point.”

24 Apr, 2013

Swartz documentary Kickstarter project launches

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Brian Knappenberger, the director of the Anonymous documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, launches a Kickstarter to raise $75,000 to fund his feature documentary about Swartz. The documentary, currently titled The Internet’s Own Boy, will look not just look at the life of the programmer and activist, but at the culture he helped build. In addition to speaking with Swartz’s family and loved ones Knappenberger plans to speak with officials at MIT, which has been reviewing what happened in the JSTOR case since the programmer’s death. Keeping in line with Swartz’s vision, the director said he plans to release the film under a Creative Commons license so that others can build off of what he produces.

1 Feb, 2013

Congresswoman posts revamped ‘Aaron’s Law’ on Reddit


Rep. Lofgren (D-Calif.) posts a revised and expanded “Aaron’s Law” — her proposal to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in honor of Aaron Swartz to Reddit. The new draft addresses some of the concerns that were raised when the first proposal was made public. The bill de-criminalizes terms of service violations and defines what “access without authorization” actually means, the main concern of a number of legal experts such as Lawrence Lessig or the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Marcia Hoffmann, who were concerned about the clarity Lofgren’s original proposal. The new bill also ensures that changing one’s IP or MAC address is not a violation of either the CFAA or the Wire Fraud act.

15 Jan, 2013

Father: son ‘killed by the government’

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Robert Swartz says during the service in Highland Park that his son was hounded by the government.

He was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles.

Swartz’s girlfriend, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, said:

Aaron wanted so bad to change the world. He believed you had to see the world for how it really was to change it. With this [upcoming] trial and everything he was facing the last two years, I think [Aaron] fell into the pain. I love him, I miss him and I’ve learned so much from him.

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, director of the Safra Center for Ethics where Swartz was once a fellow, also spoke at the funeral.

‘A kid genius. A soul, a conscience’

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Lessig writes a tribute to Swartz:

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.

‘He belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter’

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Doctorow at BoingBoing writes:

I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15. He was working on XML stuff (he co-wrote the RSS specification when he was 14) and came to San Francisco often, and would stay with Lisa Rein, a friend of mine who was also an XML person and who took care of him and assured his parents he had adult supervision. In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society, like he belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you are.

This morning, a lot of people are speculating that Aaron killed himself because he was worried about doing time. That might be so…. But Aaron was also a person who’d had problems with depression for many years. He’d written about the subject publicly, and talked about it with his friends.

11 Jan, 2013

Aaron Swartz commits suicide age 26

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Swartz body is found by his girlfriend at his home in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn at around 9.30am. He was 26. Swartz’ attorney confirms in an email to The Tech blog.

The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true

He left no suicide note. Swartz’s mother writes on Hacker News:

Aaron has been depressed about his case/upcoming trial, but we had no idea what he was going through was this painful. Aaron was a terrific young man. He contributed a lot to the world in his short life and I regret the loss of all the things he had yet to accomplish. As you can imagine, we all miss him dearly. The grief is unfathomable.

16 Sep, 2012

Seeks donations for Swartz legal defense


Bettina Neuefeind, wife of Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig  organizes free.aaronsw.com to raise money for Swartz defense. Larry Lessig, is the director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University, of which Swartz is a former fellow. His alleged crime is based on the belief in fair use, an ideal that Creative Commons is know for promoting.

Neuefeind describes herself as “a housing and disability rights lawyer, mother of three and social activist very focused on public health, nutrition, sustainability and social justice.”

23 Jul, 2012

Art Project


Lauren Cornell uses Image Atlas as the front page of his site.

19 Jul, 2011

Charged with illegal download of JSTOR database

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Swartz is charged by U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer, in relation to downloading 4.8 million articles worth $1.5 million dollars and other documents — nearly the entire library — of JSTOR, a nonprofit online service for distributing scholarly articles online. Swartz faces up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines. United States attorney, Carmen M. Ortiz, said:

Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars. It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away.

According to the indictment, in September of 2010, Swartz used several methods to grab articles, including using a program called keepgrabbing.py and breaking into a computer-wiring closet on the M.I.T. campus and setting up a laptop with a false identity on the school network for free JSTOR access under the name Gary Host — or when shortened for the e-mail address, “ghost.”

Swartz is accused of repeatedly spoofing the MAC address — an identifier that is usually static — of his computer after MIT blocked his computer based on that number. The grand jury indictment also notes that Swartz didn’t provide a real e-mail address when registering on the network.

When retrieving the computer, he hid his face behind a bicycle helmet, peeking out through the ventilation holes. The flood of downloads was so great that it crashed some JSTOR servers, the indictment stated, and JSTOR blocked access to the network from M.I.T. and its users for several days.

Swartz returned the hard drives containing the articles to JSTOR and promised that the material would not be disseminated. JSTOR did not pursue charges but referred the case to the United States Attorney’s Office. Swartz surrenders to authorities the same day, pleading not guilty on all accounts, and is released on $100,000 bail.

16 Jun, 2011

Demand Progress denies


Demand Progress denies any affiliation with Demonoid and says that there is a verification process for signatures collected online.

24 May, 2011

MPA attacks Demand Progress


The Motion Picture Association of America accuses Demand Progress of being allied with “offshore rogue websites that promote the theft and illegal marketing of American products like movies, video games, and software.” The basis of the accusation was a post on the front page of BitTorrent tracker Demonoid linking to the Demand Progress petition against Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). The MPAA also accused Demand Progress of faking signatures on their petitions.

6 Jan, 2011

Swartz arrested at MIT

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After investigators at MIT began to suspect that someone is illegally downloading material from the JSTOR archive they trace the leak to a basement wiring closet where they find a laptop and external hard drive hooked up directly to a network. The laptop and the hard drive are hidden from view by a cardboard box. Secret Service Agent Michael places a surveillance camera in the closet. The surveillance images show Swartz entering the closet three days in a row. Using his white bicylce helmet as a mask, Swartz attempts to cover his face from the cameras as he tries to retrieve the computer equipment that he left their weeks before. On January 6th an officer sees Swartz attempt to leave MIT property with the laptop and hard drive. At 2:11 p.m. Swartz is ID’d on a bicycle on Massachusetts Avenue by an MIT police officer, according to his own report. That report states that when he encounters Captain Albert Pierce of the MIT Police Department, Swartz jumps off his bike and runs down Lee Street. He runs approximately 400 feet before being handcuffed and charged with breaking and entering.

27 Sep, 2010

Starts Demand Progress

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Swartz founds Demand Progress, a Progressive Political Action Committee and grassroots activism organization. The group runs online campaigns and lobbies in Washington, D.C. and in various states for progressive causes, such as stopping Internet censorship and issues of privacy.

Sep 2010

Downloads JSTOR database


Swartz allegedly uses several methods to grab articles from the JSTOR database, including breaking into a computer-wiring closet on the M.I.T. campus and setting up a laptop with a false identity on the school network for free JSTOR access under the name Gary Host — or when shortened for the e-mail address, “ghost.” When retrieving the computer, he hides his face behind a bicycle helmet, peeking out through the ventilation holes. The flood of downloads is so great that it crashed some JSTOR servers and JSTOR blocked access to the network from M.I.T. and its users for several days.