As you are all probably aware of by now, noted online activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide this weekend. An investigation is underway, but his family and others are saying he did it to avoid a lengthy trial and possible prison sentence over his online publishing of academic journals from JSTOR and MIT. In honor of Swartz’ memory, Anonymous has hacked and defaced MIT’s Web site, the school where he allegedly harvested the journals from.
As usual, the defaced Web site featured a message from Anonymous. In it, the hacktivist collective calls for a number of reforms in Internet law. Here’s the list courtesy of CNET:
We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
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.
Beyond Anonymous hacking MIT, another group has stood up in support of Swartz’ mission to make information free for all. A number of academics have been publishing studies online with the hashtag #PDFtribute. Most of these studies are copyright protected, but Swartz would likely have it no other way. He believed in freedom of information, especially when it came to academic studies. It’s hard to say if the publishers will prosecute authors uploading their own studies, but it would look really bad on those who do in the wake of Swartz’ death.
Swartz was a well known and beloved member of the online activist community. It’s unlikely that Anonymous is going to stop with a simple hack or defacement. The group is going to continue to push for reform with this particular tragedy only serving to bolster their cause.[Image: okfn/flickr]