Hacker collective Anonymous has responded to the suicide of Reddit co-founder and internet activist Aaron Swartz by hacking a number of MIT sites.
The group took over the cogen.mit.edu and rledev.mit.edu sites (both of which appear to have since been returned to normal), posting a tribute to Swartz and calling for reforms to existing online law. Their message is however still available through a release on Pastebin:
Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing — an ideal that we should all support.
Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, particularly their punishment regimes, and the highly-questionable justice of pre-trial bargaining. Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activism; it had tragic consequences.
Swartz was being charged by US prosecutors for using the MIT network to download and distribute thousands of articles from fee-paying journal sites. Although Swartz is believed to have suffered from depression, his family believes that the stiff 35 year sentence prosecutors wanted him to face sent him over the edge.
It should be noted that Anonymous’ actions in this particular instance were nowhere near as aggressive as usual. It even apologised for using the MIT sites:
We tender apologies to the administrators at MIT for this temporary use of their websites. We understand that it is a time of soul-searching for all those within this great institution as much — perhaps for some involved even more so — than it is for the greater internet community.
We do not consign blame or responsibility upon MIT for what has happened, but call for all those feel heavy-hearted in their proximity to this awful loss to acknowledge instead the responsibility they have — that we all have — to build and safeguard a future that would make Aaron proud, and honour the ideals and dedication that burnt so brightly within him by embodying them in thought and word and action.
It ended its tribute to Swartz by saying: “You were the best of us; may you yet bring out the best in us”.