Petition for MIT to apologize for role in Aaron Swartz prosecution

We the undersigned ask that MIT issue an apology for its silence regarding the unjust federal prosecution against Aaron Swartz for actions that caused little or no harm to MIT or any individuals. Faced with a maximum fine of $1 million and over 35 years in prison if convicted of 13 felony counts related to the downloading of academic journal articles on MIT’s internet network [1], Aaron committed suicide on January 11, 2013.

We believe that MIT should have issued a statement criticizing the excessively harsh charges against Aaron in light of the following facts:

1.  Aaron’s use of MIT’s open network to gain access to JSTOR articles through MIT’s journal subscription was legal. At worst, his use of a computer script to automate downloading of 4.8 million articles violated JSTOR’s terms of use, for which he was not charged [2].

2. Aaron never distributed any of these articles to the public. In fact, he returned all copies of the downloads and promised not to share them once he was arrested [3].

3. JSTOR stated that it had no interest in pursuing civil litigation against Aaron [4] and asked for the criminal litigation to be dropped.

Aaron was a social activist, supporter of open access to knowledge, and friend to many in the MIT community. We are saddened to learn of his death and supportive of his family and partner’s criticism of MIT’s inaction against “a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach” [5].

[1] http://www.justice.gov/usao/ma/news/2011/July/SwartzAaronPR.html
[2] http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/
[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/aaron-swartz-heroism-suicide1
[4] http://about.jstor.org/news/jstor-statement-misuse-incident-and-criminal-case
[5] http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2013/01/official_statement.php

[Edit: A couple people have pointed out that President Reif has issued a letter announcing the start of an internal investigation into MIT's involvement with Aaron's case, which we appreciate. We do not ask for an apology before the internal investigation is over, but we do wish to communicate our opinion that anything less than an apology as a result of the investigation is unacceptable in light of the facts stated above.]

[Disclaimer: This author of this post does not claim to represent the views of the MIT Society for Open Science as a group.]

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696Kris LeeSibling of an MIT alumnus, friend of many MTI alumni.Jan 19, 2013
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643Peter LuntJan 18, 2013
642James JacobsFriend of Aaron, librarian, info activistJan 18, 2013
641Alan PalmCambridge residentJan 18, 2013
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529Jesse WelchJan 17, 2013
528John CavanaughJan 17, 2013
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440Leon ScottJan 16, 2013
439Josh LevingerSB 16 2007, MS Media Lab 2010Jan 16, 2013
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435Mark TokheimJan 16, 2013
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414Zachary BarryteStudentJan 16, 2013
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411Richard BuckmanFormer special student/hssp studentJan 16, 2013
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407Kathryn MaynesJan 16, 2013
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405Jay ThomasJan 16, 2013
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401Mark McCormickJan 16, 2013
400Ian TuckerJan 16, 2013
399Martin ReinhartMIT Class of 61Jan 16, 2013
398Kathleen (Kathie) Kaeding TurnerJan 16, 2013
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396Jennifer QuinnJan 16, 2013
395Philip ChinnJan 16, 2013
394Kevin GallaghernoneJan 16, 2013
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392Robert ChaseJan 16, 2013
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388Donna SpearJan 16, 2013
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386Chad MichaelJan 16, 2013
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365Brian JenkinsJan 16, 2013
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360Trevor BekolayJan 16, 2013
359Nick SearcyJan 16, 2013
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355Khadijah M. BrittonMIT Splash/HSSP Participant, Community MemberJan 16, 2013
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350Samantha CohenJan 16, 2013
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343Jack WhiteJan 16, 2013
342Nivair Gabriel2010 alumJan 16, 2013
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340Alexander Hayman2008 AlumJan 16, 2013
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337Russell DenneyJan 16, 2013
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335Darija TešanovićJan 16, 2013
334Mikel SaguesJan 16, 2013
333Bianca FarrellAlum '11Jan 16, 2013
332Alicia Singham GoodwinUndergraduate 2014Jan 16, 2013
331Jillian MondaJan 16, 2013
330Alex PavloffJan 16, 2013
329Zak FallowsAlumnusJan 16, 2013
328Giedrius BlazysNoneJan 16, 2013
327Harshal ChaudhariJan 16, 2013
326Anna GladstoneAlumnaJan 16, 2013
325Jessica LiAlumJan 16, 2013
324Charles FranklinMIT Undergraduate Class of 2014Jan 16, 2013
323Brian HamrickStudentJan 16, 2013
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321Mark FergusonJan 16, 2013
320Melissa SkanundergraduateJan 16, 2013
319Catherine YJan 16, 2013
318Emily LydicMIT UndergraduateJan 16, 2013
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316Margaret HaganJan 16, 2013
315janice savonenJan 16, 2013
314Rafael RodriguezJan 16, 2013
313Anderson Wang'16Jan 16, 2013
312Daniel BriggsAlumnusJan 16, 2013
311Joanne Robbjust an average citizen stunned regarding the circumstances of death of this remarkable young manJan 16, 2013
310Daniel Fourie2012Jan 16, 2013
309ben colenoneJan 16, 2013
308Kayla MedunaundergradJan 16, 2013
307Chris VarenhorstAlum '09Jan 16, 2013
306Benjamin Lerner2012Jan 16, 2013
305Juan YbarraAlumJan 16, 2013
304Michael CohenCurrent studentJan 16, 2013
303Theodore Hilk02139Jan 16, 2013
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297Quentin SmithAlumJan 16, 2013
296Sam BaumanUndergraduateJan 16, 2013
295A. AxelrodalumJan 16, 2013
294Brian FisherMIT '01Jan 16, 2013
293Roberta PoceviciuteStudentJan 16, 2013
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287Daniel CooperFriend of the communityJan 16, 2013
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282Charles Xu2015Jan 16, 2013
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280Omer ZachJan 16, 2013
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278Shefali OzaalumJan 16, 2013
277N. HorbinskiJan 16, 2013
276Peter OlsonalumnusJan 16, 2013
275Rony KubatAlumJan 16, 2013
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273Dhaval AdjodahstudentJan 16, 2013
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270Daniel KramnikUndergraduateJan 16, 2013
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254Jeremy FloresMIT S.B. 2010Jan 15, 2013
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229Andrew ShapiroAlumnusJan 15, 2013
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226Larry Stoneformer staffJan 15, 2013
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222Shicong XieStudentJan 15, 2013
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215Laura StonehillJan 15, 2013
214Zachary BaileySB '08, SM '10Jan 15, 2013
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208Jordan McCarthyJan 15, 2013
207Robert Reesalumnus (BS '68, MS '70)Jan 15, 2013
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203Ruth MillerClass of 2007Jan 15, 2013
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201Oliver HockenhullJan 15, 2013
200Jacqueline North Jan 15, 2013
199Michael PruettJan 15, 2013
198Bruna MoscolMIT undergraduateJan 15, 2013
197Ben Horkley2014Jan 15, 2013
196Steph GansJan 15, 2013
195John CollinsJan 15, 2013
194Chris Mills2012Jan 15, 2013
193Elizabeth SantorellaUndergraduateJan 15, 2013
192Enrique EstradaJan 15, 2013
191Margaret AvenerAlum '07Jan 15, 2013
190Sumana RaychaudhuriJan 15, 2013
189matthew friesJan 15, 2013
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187Roxana SafipourAlum 2009Jan 15, 2013
186Xander HudsonJan 15, 2013
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183Manushaqe Mucoundergraduate studentJan 15, 2013
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178Ioana ZelkoundergraduateJan 15, 2013
177Matthew BoulosKillam Fellow 2004-5Jan 15, 2013
176Anastasia McTaggart-MeekSpecial studentJan 15, 2013
175Mehmet CetinkayaJan 15, 2013
174Anvisha PaiundergraduateJan 15, 2013
173Albert CarterStaffJan 15, 2013
172Shuo YangJan 15, 2013
171Iman HajirasoulihaJan 15, 2013
170Nutan GuptaNoneJan 15, 2013
169Brian NeltneralumniJan 15, 2013
168Ashley NewtonJan 15, 2013
167Steve NeidhardtJan 15, 2013
166Paul KreinerStudentJan 15, 2013
165Karen WickertJan 15, 2013
164CJ CarrStartLabs, hackathonsJan 15, 2013
163Zachary McDowellJan 15, 2013
162Olivia MelloMIT '14Jan 15, 2013
161Niema Hirschmother of alumniJan 15, 2013
160Laura TottennoneJan 15, 2013
159Joshua SlocumAlumni '10 and '11Jan 15, 2013
158Angela PineoJan 15, 2013
157Robert KrawitzVI-3 1987Jan 15, 2013
156Michael WileyJan 15, 2013
155Professor Daniel Martin KatzJan 15, 2013
154Libby Cone, MD, MA MIT Class of 1977Jan 15, 2013
153Teresa DovidioJan 15, 2013
152Katelyn Haasfriends with Aaron's brother NoahJan 15, 2013
151Alexander HooverJan 15, 2013
150William KosterFriend Attends MITJan 15, 2013
149Larry LennhoffalumJan 15, 2013
148Marianne DíazJan 15, 2013
147Wendy JohnsonJan 15, 2013
146Katherine PolicyJan 15, 2013
145Thomas LevineJan 15, 2013
144Thomas GordanierJan 15, 2013
143Nicholas JoliatAlumnusJan 15, 2013
142James MaddenMCP 2010Jan 15, 2013
141David HouseJan 15, 2013
140Madeline HickmanMIT '11Jan 15, 2013
139Frederick DaveyJan 15, 2013
138Jennifer HillNoneJan 15, 2013
137Sung KimAlum 2010, Current StaffJan 15, 2013
136Jeff Matsonformer staffJan 15, 2013
135Bismita SahuJan 15, 2013
134Manohar SrikanthPhD, PostdocJan 15, 2013
133Maya CookJan 15, 2013
132Kavya JoshiMEngJan 15, 2013
131Jordan ReyesJan 15, 2013
130Elizabeth RileyCourse 20 2008Jan 15, 2013
129Francisco Jose Costa-CanoJan 15, 2013
128Hernan AnlloJan 15, 2013
127Steven PennybakerAlumJan 15, 2013
126Bronwen Watkins-PitchfordJan 15, 2013
125Stefano PaluelloJan 15, 2013
124Elyot GrantGrad studentJan 15, 2013
123Colm McMahonn/aJan 15, 2013
122philip keithnoneJan 15, 2013
121Pratik ChaudhariStudentJan 15, 2013
120Joshua Estrin SkrzypekSon and friend of numerous students/alumniJan 15, 2013
119Amy FarrellMIT 1988, EECSJan 15, 2013
118Noah VicksteinJan 15, 2013
117James Blake PattersonnayJan 15, 2013
116Colin McSwiggenalumnusJan 15, 2013
115Latifah HamzahAlumJan 15, 2013
114Rose CottinghamJan 15, 2013
113Marcel BorisJan 15, 2013
112Simon OsinderoJan 15, 2013
111Corinn Herrick2016Jan 15, 2013
110Robert Ochshornformer staffJan 15, 2013
109Rob McQueenMIT 12Jan 15, 2013
108Aimi WatanabealumJan 15, 2013
107Micah DaigleJan 15, 2013
106Marc BouvierJan 15, 2013
105Will DoenlenMIT c/o 2012Jan 15, 2013
104Jasmine FlorentineMIT AlumniJan 15, 2013
103Charles HungMIT '07Jan 15, 2013
102Christie LinMEng 2012Jan 15, 2013
101Rachel Bowens-RubinJan 15, 2013
100Harry RichmanundergraduateJan 15, 2013
99Samuel KleinJan 15, 2013
98Dustin BoyerJan 15, 2013
97Michele PratusevichMIT 2013Jan 15, 2013
96Nicole AptekarJan 15, 2013
95Rémi RispalJan 15, 2013
94Justin CampbellJan 15, 2013
93Jacob SteinhardtMIT '12Jan 15, 2013
92Claudia GoldAlum c/o 2007Jan 15, 2013
91Frédéric LOHIERJan 15, 2013
90Dany QumsiyehalumJan 15, 2013
89Shauna Gordon-McKeonJan 15, 2013
88Cypress FrankenfeldJan 15, 2013
87Amir HirschClass of 2006, MEng 2007Jan 15, 2013
86Seth Woodworthformer sysadminJan 15, 2013
85Bhaskar MookerjiAlumnusJan 15, 2013
84Darren SchmidtJan 15, 2013
83David LewisJan 15, 2013
82Jacob GreshJan 15, 2013
81Natan WytheJan 15, 2013
80Jaimee LeeAaron's cousin Jan 15, 2013
79Russell RyanS.B '09, M.Eng '11 EECSJan 15, 2013
78Nick StantonJan 15, 2013
77Alec ThomsonGrad StudentJan 15, 2013
76Dr. Pamela HutchisonExtended family of Aaron SwartzJan 15, 2013
75Timur BalbekovMIT S.B. 2013Jan 15, 2013
74Eric KuglerJan 15, 2013
73Rebecca GodfreyUSAJan 15, 2013
72Nick BadgerFriend of graduatesJan 15, 2013
71Rebecca SchnellJan 15, 2013
70Adam RodriguezMIT Undergraduate studentJan 15, 2013
69Andrew ZolyakJan 15, 2013
68Johan KullingsjoJan 15, 2013
67Hillary WheelockJan 15, 2013
66Jake ThompsonJan 15, 2013
65Alexander PatrikalakisAlumnus-AffiliateJan 15, 2013
64Dan WheeleralumJan 15, 2013
63Deniz YorukogluCsailJan 15, 2013
62Robert McCauleyJan 15, 2013
61Alec WilliamsStudentJan 15, 2013
60David CoopJan 15, 2013
59Thomas McLarneyJan 15, 2013
58Wiktor JakubiukMIT studentJan 15, 2013
57Daniel ClarkJan 15, 2013
56Meredith PetersonJan 15, 2013
55wesley gouldRejected applicantJan 15, 2013
54Star Simpsonex-studentJan 15, 2013
53Qiaochu YuanAlumnusJan 15, 2013
52Ron NewmanMIT '79, course VI-3Jan 15, 2013
51Alan AguiarJan 15, 2013
50May MoreshetJan 15, 2013
49Taylor MartinfriendJan 15, 2013
48Michael CoenAlum: S.B., S.M., and Ph.D.Jan 15, 2013
47Kyle BrogleSIPBJan 15, 2013
46Dylan SherryGraduate studentJan 15, 2013
45Amanda Wangstudent (undergraduate)Jan 15, 2013
44Jonathan VeseyJan 15, 2013
43Derek HovdeJan 15, 2013
42Melissa BoydJan 15, 2013
41Yuanyu ChenSB '12Jan 15, 2013
40Christopher MerrillMIT 2012Jan 15, 2013
39Michael NawrotStudentJan 15, 2013
38Paula FraserJan 15, 2013
37Charles PairanJan 15, 2013
36Jonathan MarcusFriend of many MIT students and alums.Jan 15, 2013
35Adam SpektorJan 15, 2013
34John DillJan 15, 2013
33Anthony HuronJan 15, 2013
32Afian AnwarCSAIL Jan 15, 2013
31Eric DuerrJan 15, 2013
30Eben FreemanMIT undergradJan 15, 2013
29Kevin MarkJan 15, 2013
28James KingJan 15, 2013
27Geoffrey MaciolekA FanJan 15, 2013
26Derek OverstreetJan 15, 2013
25Christian TernusMIT '10Jan 15, 2013
24Thomas CalahanMartinos Center at MGHJan 15, 2013
23Val Healyformer studentJan 15, 2013
22Ian DaniherAffiliateJan 15, 2013
21Jae Ung HwangJan 15, 2013
20Molly de BlancStaffJan 15, 2013
19Daniel DominguezalumJan 15, 2013
18Rachel FongalumnaJan 15, 2013
17Kamron PalmerJan 15, 2013
16Caroline BlehartJan 15, 2013
15Catherine OlssonStudentJan 15, 2013
14Steven DeeNoneJan 15, 2013
13Janet Li2013 Jan 15, 2013
12Nolan EssigmannStudentJan 15, 2013
11Brittany WillockJan 15, 2013
10Jeremy SherClass of 1999Jan 15, 2013
9nathan lachenmyeraluminuJan 15, 2013
8Adam WisniewskiJan 15, 2013
7Carolyn DiNardoJan 15, 2013
6Noah SwartzJan 15, 2013
5Brian DeRosaJan 15, 2013
4Sarah GanzhornJan 15, 2013
3Donald GuyalumnusJan 15, 2013
2Franck DernoncourtPhD in AIJan 14, 2013
1Yan Zhualum (2012)Jan 14, 2013

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13 Responses to Petition for MIT to apologize for role in Aaron Swartz prosecution

  1. Pingback: What can we do in Aaron’s wake? | Madeleine Ball

  2. Pingback: The Truth about Aaron Swartz by Unhandled.com « LilBambi’s Blog – BambisMusings

  3. Pingback: Petition asking MIT to apologize for pursuing Aaron Swartz; hackerspaces contributing to projects Aaron worked on | Globe Law News

  4. Pingback: Petition asking MIT to apologize for pursuing Aaron Swartz; hackerspaces contributing to projects Aaron worked on | It's like, Really?

  5. Hey, I’m an alum and work professionally with online organizing technology. I’d like to help this petition spread and grow big enough to get the response it deserves.

    A few minor things you may want to add:
    - Optimize for Facebook sharing. Add an og:image meta tag, and a short description.
    - Looks like you’re using SpeakUp Email petitions. Can you edit the email sent to the signer after they submit? Ask them to share again, they probably will.
    - If you can remove the requirement to confirm the email address, you’ll make it easier to sign quickly.

    Anything you can do to lower the barrier to signing, the faster it will grow. Feel free to contact me at the address above, I’m happy to help any way I can.

  6. Michael Lissack says:

    Final thoughts re Aaron Swartz.

    The more I have thought about this the more disturbed I get. My take: a brilliant young man with mental health issues is “adopted” by the Internet/PC/Info should be free crowd (yes Larry, Tim and Cory I mean you). He is coddled and “groomed.” He is a kid, he can act out the things they dare not (but do talk about and fantasize about etc). If he gets into trouble, they as the “respected elders” can vouch for him and all will be well. He gets to do the dirty work (and as a result gets the praise from these elders which is personality needs) and they get the public platitudes. But this time Uncle Sam and MIT refused to go along. The brilliant but troubled Aaron cannot accept that he has done something “wrong” after all all his mentors tell him it was right and for a good cause and the government has no case. If he accepts the plea deal then his role as the “kid who can do anything” vanishes. If he fights on, well it seems his mentors are unable to deliver. All through this no one is dealing with Aaron’s mental health issues and seemingly everyone has failed to teach him about either personal responsibility or cause and effect. Aaron is drowning in his loss of self identity. He does the unthinkable. The mentors and the parents — Aaron’s enablers and those who were “using him” for their own ends — hold much of the responsibility but that defies their sense of self identity (we of the the “higher ethical ground” are always doing only that which is the “right thing to do”) — so they lash out and blame others.

    In the world of the users (my word for those who abused their relationship with Aaron) MIT was wrong for not seeing that allowing repeated trespassing and hacking of its property and networks served a “greater good.” The government was wrong for not agreeing that “moral intentions” trump actual physical criminal acts. The media can be used to help divert attention and guilt from those who really hurt Aaron and contributed to his downfall.

    The “Information should be free” community abused one of its own most brilliant members. It is time that community look in a mirror and begin to accept responsibility for its own ugly role in Aaron’s tragedy.

  7. Keith Allshouse says:

    Please. Help me understand how MIT conducted itself properly in this situation. Please.

  8. Larry Bell says:

    That the Youth Movement… Read: youthful activism… has suddenly become the target of academia and the status quo is a sad commentary on the current culture at MIT.
    The Occupy Movement needs to move its headquarters to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to dislodge that thick top crust which has calcified the minds of its administration and runs counter of its stated mission of advancing knowledge, intellectual freedom and creativity. The tragic death of Aaron Swartz is a black mark on this school and will forever remain so. It is time for a new mission statement from MIT which embraces web freedom / open access and the principles that have cost one brilliant young man his life.

  9. Tom Zych says:

    s/outreach/overreach/

  10. MIT '12 says:

    I disagree with your claim that nothing he did was illegal. In fact, if you look at the law, (i.e. http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/14/aaron-swartz-charges/), what he did was indeed illegal and he continued to do it after he had been blocked, told to stop, etc. He was warned, and continued breaking the law. Whether it hurt anyone is irrelevant – the law is the law, and he should realize that there are consequences to actions. If you think the prosecution should have used their discretion to either not prosecute, deal, or seek lesser charges, that is one thing. But I can just as easily make the argument that they should make an example our of him before someone uses his techniques to do something more damaging.

  11. Pingback: Aaron Swartz's Father: MIT Put 'Institutional Concerns Ahead of Compassion' - FourTech Plus

  12. Pingback: To fix the shocking brokenness … « where trouble was needed

  13. Aravinda says:

    In the years I lived and worked in Boston I spent many evenings and weekends on the MIT campus, in the library, attending events or strolling the infinite corridor. In spite of its numbered buildings or maybe even because of them, the place had a homely feeling and I always felt welcome there. In fact, one of my pet stories to tell used to be how I was able to log in to athena using a login passed along to me by a homeless person. All I did was look things up in the library, thereby impressing my co-workers the next day with my fast turnaround on research questions. I was young, it was the 90s. Incidentally I worked at BBN, one of the internet pioneers, where we also had numbered buildings, just like MIT.

    (fya, I logged in as root with password mrroot. I assume this no longer works, though I have not tried it in many years. Sorry if I am revealing any secret here.)

    I am now far from Boston and though I thought I was aware of issues like this, I had not heard of Aaron Swartz till now and I am more than shocked by the role MIT has played. MIT the place where anyone is allowed to audit a course (at least this is what the word on the street was). I can no longer smile when I see news of MIT students playing tetris on a building, I can no longer think of MIT without thinking of Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz who read Noam Chomsky at age 18 and dedicated his life to changing the world. If we do not work to address causes like freedom of knowledge through legal means, then we are going to see more idealistic and self-sacrificing people like Aaron Swartz putting the cause ahead of themselves. When we do, I hope that we can recognize their abilities and seek their guidance for the sake of a more just and humane society.

    If we can’t we may want to ban Noam Chomsky for 18-year olds and make them wait till they are old enough to sit in cafes and just talk about it.

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