Internet trailblazer and activist Aaron Swartz is dead at age 26
Aaron, who often appeared on this show, was found dead in his apartment after an apparent suicide over the weekend. He had long battled depression. But friends, family, and supporters of Aaron are placing the blame for his death on the Department of Justice, which was currently prosecuting Aaron for an incident that happened back in 2011 on the campus of MIT. Aaron, an advocate for freedom of information on the Internet, was busted for tapping into MIT’s network, and downloading millions of scholarly journals from the online database JSTOR.
Despite it being a victimless crime, and JSTOR itself settling the matter with Aaron, the Department of Justice stepped in to make an example out of Aaron – charging him with multiple crimes and the possibility of serving more than 30 years in prison – which is more than killers, bank robbers, child pornographers, and terrorist sympathizers receive. The Secret Service even got involved in the matter. According to a statement – Aaron’s family blamed his death on, “an exceptionally harsh array of charges.”
Our justice system is clearly broken. How is that banksters who steal billions, or corporate executives who are responsible for the deaths of workers on oil rigs and mines, never see a day in jail. But whistleblowers and freedom of information activists have the book thrown at them, and suffer the full might of the United States Justice Department?
Over the weekend – online activists affiliated with Anonymous claimed responsibility for taking down the websites of MIT and the Department of Justice. One thing is for sure, the online community, which had joined together in the past for significant achievements, like the defeat of SOPA and PIPA, will not let Aaron die in vain.
Like the suicide of the Tunisian street vendor, which kicked off the Arab Spring, Aaron’s death just may be a spark to wake Americans up to this cancer in our justice system, this abuse of copyright laws, and this corporate domination of the internet, and our society. Let’s hope.