Aaron Swartz, creator of reddit, was more than just an insane computer programmer with a talent beyond many today. He felt that the internet was a place where people should be completely free to express or do whatever they so choose as long as they do not infringe on others’ rights to free speech. Because of this, he was very against the protection of information, especially that which he felt should be available to the masses. He was accused of stealing the entire JSTOR library and putting it up on the web for access freely. He was arrested and punished criminally by the FBI and US Government. He hung himself on January 8th, 2013. By using a laptop connected to a networking switch, he had gained access to MIT servers. This unauthorized access gave the government grounds to charge him with two counts of breaking and entering with the intent to commit a felony. He was eventually indicted on counts of wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information and recklessly damaging a computer. But when the FBI noticed who he was, they did everything in their power to make sure he never saw the light of day. They tagged on nine felony counts which could lead him serving a maximum of 50 years and a $1 million fine.
One iconic quote taken from a friend at his eulogy: “the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a ‘felon’. For in the 18 months of negotiations, that was what he was not willing to accept.” Does this mean that the government is to blame for the death of a man who was guilty in the eyes of the few and a heroic leader in the eyes of the many on the internet? Is the law worth the life of a person committing privacy crimes that hurt no one? These points should be considered
Lessig, Lawrence (January 12, 2013). “Prosecutor as bully”. Lessig Blog, v2. “Aaron consulted me as a friend and lawyer…. [M]y obligations to Harvard created a conflict that made it impossible for me to continue as a lawyer…. …I get wrong. But I also get proportionality.”
“Indictment, USA v. Swartz, 1:11-cr-10260, No. 2 (D.Mass. Jul. 14, 2011)”. MIT. 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2013-01-23. Superseded by “Superseding Indictment, USA v. Swartz, 1:11-cr-10260, No. 53 (D.Mass. Sep. 12, 2012)”. Docketalarm.com. 2012-09-12. Retrieved 2013-10-30.