Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz59 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.


7 Jan, 2015

White House petition response

Makes Statement

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.

5 Feb, 2013

David Byrne: Swartz methods “sloppy”.

Makes Statement

In a blog post, musician David Byrne discusses issues regarding Swartz arrest and suicide:

I don’t disagree with many of Swartz’s points. I can certainly see the point that much academic data, when freely available, can have a greater chance to spur insights and creativity from researchers and scientists around the world than if it is locked up behind paywalls. Withholding cancer research from academics who can’t afford access because a big pharmaceutical company “owns” the data doesn’t seem like a very morally defensible position—even if it is what the law might say is perfectly legal.

But who then decides what data “deserves” to be stolen and “liberated”? There are all sorts of data. Some of it is—though I hate to admit it—possibly essential to our security, and some is strictly personal and deserves to stay that way. It’s complicated, and this particular case seems messy—though Swartz’s points are mostly valid… but maybe his method was sloppy.

15 Jan, 2013

Father: son ‘killed by the government’

Makes Statement

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.

12 Jan, 2013

Family and partner release official statement

Makes Statement

The family and partner of Swartz release an official statement, praising his commitment to Internet openness and partially blaming MIT and the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office for his death :

Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing. Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.

Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.

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.

They also launch an remembrance website, rememberaaronsw.com

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