[ARENA] Fwd: Re: RIP: Aaron H. Swartz (November 8, 1986 -- January 11, 2013)

miguel leal ml virose.pt
Segunda-Feira, 14 de Janeiro de 2013 - 11:32:12 WET

Begin forwarded message:

> Resent-From: nettime  kein.org
> From: Felix Stalder <felix  openflows.com>
> Subject: Re: <nettime> RIP: Aaron H. Swartz (November 8, 1986 -- January 11, 2013)
> Date: January 13, 2013 9:21:21 AM GMT+00:00
> [The prosecution of Swartz by the DOJ and the unwillingness of MIT
> (which prides itself on its hacker tradition) to support him, shines
> a light of another of the many layers of cooperation between the
> security apparatuses and academia. See the statement of the family at
> the end of this article.]
> The inspiring heroism of Aaron Swartz
> The internet freedom activist committed suicide on Friday at age 26,
> but his life was driven by courage and passion
> Glenn Greenwald
> http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/aaron-swartz-heroism-suicide1
> Aaron Swartz, the computer programmer and internet freedom activist,
> committed suicide on Friday in New York at the age of 26. As the
> incredibly moving remembrances from his friends such as Cory Doctorow
> and Larry Lessig attest, he was unquestionably brilliant but also
> - like most everyone - a complex human being plagued by demons and
> flaws. For many reasons, I don't believe in whitewashing someone's
> life or beatifying them upon death. But, to me, much of Swartz's
> tragically short life was filled with acts that are genuinely and, in
> the most literal and noble sense, heroic. I think that's really worth
> thinking about today.
> At the age of 14, Swartz played a key role in developing the RSS
> software that is still widely used to enable people to manage what
> they read on the internet. As a teenager, he also played a vital role
> in the creation of Reddit, the wildly popular social networking news
> site. When Conde Nast purchased Reddit, Swartz received a substantial
> sum of money at a very young age. He became something of a legend
> in the internet and programming world before he was 18. His path to
> internet mogul status and the great riches it entails was clear, easy
> and virtually guaranteed: a path which so many other young internet
> entrepreneurs have found irresistible, monomaniacally devoting
> themselves to making more and more money long after they have more
> than they could ever hope to spend.
> But rather obviously, Swartz had little interest in devoting his life
> to his own material enrichment, despite how easy it would have been
> for him. As Lessig wrote: "Aaron had literally done nothing in his
> life 'to make money' . . . Aaron was always and only working for (at
> least his conception of) the public good."
> Specifically, he committed himself to the causes in which he
> so passionately believed: internet freedom, civil liberties,
> making information and knowledge as available as possible. Here
> he is in his May, 2012 keynote address at the Freedom To Connect
> conference discussing the role he played in stopping SOPA, the
> movie-industry-demanded legislation that would have vested the
> government with dangerous censorship powers over the internet.
> Critically, Swartz didn't commit himself to these causes merely by
> talking about them or advocating for them. He repeatedly sacrificed
> his own interests, even his liberty, in order to defend these values
> and challenge and subvert the most powerful factions that were their
> enemies. That's what makes him, in my view, so consummately heroic.
> In 2008, Swartz targeted Pacer, the online service that provides
> access to court documents for a per-page fee. What offended Swartz and
> others was that people were forced to pay for access to public court
> documents that were created at public expense. Along with a friend,
> Swartz created a program to download millions of those documents and
> then, as Doctorow wrote, "spent a small fortune fetching a titanic
> amount of data and putting it into the public domain." For that act of
> civil disobedience, he was investigated and harassed by the FBI, but
> never charged.
> But in July 2011, Swartz was arrested for allegedly targeting JSTOR,
> the online publishing company that digitizes and distributes scholarly
> articles written by academics and then sells them, often at a high
> price, to subscribers. As Maria Bustillos detailed, none of the
> money goes to the actual writers (usually professors) who wrote the
> scholarly articles - they are usually not paid for writing them - but
> instead goes to the publishers.
> This system offended Swartz (and many other free-data activists)
> for two reasons: it charged large fees for access to these articles
> but did not compensate the authors, and worse, it ensured that huge
> numbers of people are denied access to the scholarship produced by
> America's colleges and universities. The indictment filed against
> Swartz alleged that he used his access as a Harvard fellow to the
> JSTOR system to download millions of articles with the intent to
> distribute them online for free; when he was detected and his access
> was cut off, the indictment claims he then trespassed into an MIT
> computer-wiring closet in order to physically download the data
> directly onto his laptop.
> Swartz never distributed any of these downloaded articles. He never
> intended to profit even a single penny from anything he did, and never
> did profit in any way. He had every right to download the articles
> as an authorized JSTOR user; at worst, he intended to violate the
> company's "terms of service" by making the articles available to
> the public. Once arrested, he returned all copies of everything he
> downloaded and vowed not to use them. JSTOR told federal prosecutors
> that it had no intent to see him prosecuted, though MIT remained
> ambiguous about its wishes.
> But federal prosecutors ignored the wishes of the alleged "victims".
> Led by a federal prosecutor in Boston notorious for her overzealous
> prosecutions, the DOJ threw the book at him, charging Swartz with
> multiple felonies which carried a total sentence of several decades in
> prison and $1 million in fines.
> Swartz's trial on these criminal charges was scheduled to begin in
> two months. He adamantly refused to plead guilty to a felony because
> he did not want to spend the rest of his life as a convicted felon
> with all the stigma and rights-denials that entails. The criminal
> proceedings, as Lessig put it, already put him in a predicament where
> "his wealth [was] bled dry, yet unable to appeal openly to us for the
> financial help he needed to fund his defense, at least without risking
> the ire of a district court judge."
> To say that the DOJ's treatment of Swartz was excessive and vindictive
> is an extreme understatement. When I wrote about Swartz's plight last
> August, I wrote that he was "being prosecuted by the DOJ with obscene
> over-zealousness". Timothy Lee wrote the definitive article in 2011
> explaining why, even if all the allegations in the indictment are
> true, the only real crime committed by Swartz was basic trespassing,
> for which people are punished, at most, with 30 days in jail and a
> $100 fine, about which Lee wrote: "That seems about right: if he's
> going to serve prison time, it should be measured in days rather than
> years."
> Nobody knows for sure why federal prosecutors decided to pursue Swartz
> so vindictively, as though he had committed some sort of major crime
> that deserved many years in prison and financial ruin. Some theorized
> that the DOJ hated him for his serial activism and civil disobedience.
> Others speculated that, as Doctorow put it, "the feds were chasing
> down all the Cambridge hackers who had any connection to Bradley
> Manning in the hopes of turning one of them."
> I believe it has more to do with what I told the New York Times' Noam
> Cohen for an article he wrote on Swartz's case. Swartz's activism,
> I argued, was waged as part of one of the most vigorously contested
> battles - namely, the war over how the internet is used and who
> controls the information that flows on it - and that was his real
> crime in the eyes of the US government: challenging its authority
> and those of corporate factions to maintain a stranglehold on that
> information. In that above-referenced speech on SOPA, Swartz discussed
> the grave dangers to internet freedom and free expression and assembly
> posed by the government's efforts to control the internet with
> expansive interpretations of copyright law and other weapons to limit
> access to information.
> That's a major part of why I consider him heroic. He wasn't merely
> sacrificing himself for a cause. It was a cause of supreme importance
> to people and movements around the world - internet freedom - and he
> did it by knowingly confronting the most powerful state and corporate
> factions because he concluded that was the only way to achieve these
> ends.
> Suicide is an incredibly complicated phenomenon. I didn't know Swartz
> nearly well enough even to form an opinion about what drove him to
> do this; I had a handful of exchanges with him online in which we
> said nice things about each other's work and I truly admired him. I'm
> sure even his closest friends and family are struggling to understand
> exactly what caused him to defy his will to live by taking his own
> life.
> But, despite his public and very sad writings about battling
> depression, it only stands to reason that a looming criminal trial
> that could send him to prison for decades played some role in this;
> even if it didn't, this persecution by the DOJ is an outrage and an
> offense against all things decent, for the reasons Lessig wrote today:
>    "Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame.
> For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also
> the absurdity of the prosecutor's behavior. From the beginning, the
> government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did
> in the most extreme and absurd way. The 'property' Aaron had 'stolen',
> we were told, was worth 'millions of dollars' — with the hint, and
> then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his
> crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash
> of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what
> this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught
> the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.
>    "A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I
> have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person
> is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only
> call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if
> you don't get both, you don't deserve to have the power of the United
> States government behind you.
>    "For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the
> financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even
> those brought to 'justice' never even have to admit any wrongdoing,
> let alone be labeled 'felons'."
> Whatever else is true, Swartz was destroyed by a "justice" system
> that fully protects the most egregious criminals as long as they are
> members of or useful to the nation's most powerful factions, but
> punishes with incomparable mercilessness and harshness those who lack
> power and, most of all, those who challenge power.
> Swartz knew all of this. But he forged ahead anyway. He could have
> easily opted for a life of great personal wealth, status, prestige and
> comfort. He chose instead to fight - selflessly, with conviction and
> purpose, and at great risk to himself - for noble causes to which he
> was passionately devoted. That, to me, isn't an example of heroism;
> it's the embodiment of it, its purest expression. It's the attribute
> our country has been most lacking.
> I always found it genuinely inspiring to watch Swartz exude this
> courage and commitment at such a young age. His death had better
> prompt some serious examination of the DOJ's behavior - both in his
> case and its warped administration of justice generally. But his death
> will also hopefully strengthen the inspirational effects of thinking
> about and understanding the extraordinary acts he undertook in his
> short life.
> -----------
> From the official statement of Swartz's family:
>    "Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the
> product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and
> prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the
> Massachusetts US Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his
> death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array
> of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish
> an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT
> refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished
> principles."
> This sort of unrestrained prosecutorial abuse is, unfortunately, far
> from uncommon. It usually destroys people without attention or notice.
> Let's hope - and work to ensure that - the attention generated by
> Swartz's case prompts some movement toward accountability and reform.
> -- 
> -|- http://felix.openflows.com ------------------------ books out now:
> |
> *|Cultures & Ethics of Sharing/Kulturen & Ethiken des Teilens UIP 2012
> *|Vergessene Zukunft. Radikale Netzkulturen in Europa. transcript 2012
> *|Deep Search. The Politics of Searching Beyond Google. Studienv. 2009
> *|Mediale Kunst/Media Arts Zurich.13 Positions. Scheidegger&Spiess2008
> *|Manuel Castells and the Theory of the Network Society.Polity P. 2006
> *|Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks. Ed Futura / Revolver, 2005
> |

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