The suicide of Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz has set off a storm of protest on the Internet, including one group hacking MIT’s website.
Swartz killed himself Friday, just a few weeks before a hearing in a criminal case that could have landed him with 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines. The free information activist was accused of stealing millions of academic articles from an MIT database in 2011.
The “hacktivist” group, Anonymous, left a message on the university’s site declaring that the criminal investigation into Swartz was “a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for,” according to a copy of the page, which is no longer available.
The group left a list of demands, such as changes to computer crime laws and copyright and intellectual property law.
In support of Swartz’s mission, academics of all disciplines took to Twitter to announce that they have made their published work available for free in the “PDF Tribute” campaign. One Twitter user, Stefano Zacchiroli, provided a link to all of his papers, “no matter the unjust copyright transfers I’ve been forced to sign.
A White House petition has also garnered from thousands, demanding that US District Attorney Carmen Ortiz be removed from office for “overreach” in the Swartz case.
The group made sure to leave an apology to MIT for “this temporary use of their websites” and provided a link to the school’s regular homepage.
Anonymous has hacked into websites before, most recently in December when the controversial Westboro Baptist Church announced it would be protesting at the funerals of Sandy Hook shooting victims, according to the Christian Post.
The group stole members’ private information and then posted on the church’s website, “We will not allow you to corrupt the minds of America with your seeds of hatred. We will not allow you to inspire aggression to the social factions which you deem inferior. We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming.”
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