In the News: Hacktivists React to Aaron Swartz’ Death
In a previous post (1/17/13), I discussed the death of Aaron Swartz – computer prodigy, internet freedom activist, and federal defendant. Swartz committed suicide earlier this month. At the time of his death, he was facing federal criminal charges for allegedly downloading millions of pages of documents from the JSTOR website, with the intent of making them available for free online. According to his family and supporters, the government’s aggressive prosecution of the case (led by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts) directly contributed to his death.
This past weekend, in response to U.S. Attorney Ortiz’s aggressive prosecution of Swartz, the hacker activist group, Anonymous, seized control of the website for the United States Sentencing Commission, replacing its homepage with an ominous warning. According to the message posted on the site:
Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed. Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win—a twisted and distorted perversion of justice—a game where the only winning move was not to play.
The group claimed to have infiltrated several other unnamed federal government sites and obtained secret information, which it threatened to reveal to the public if changes are not made to the U.S. legal system:
We have enough fissile material for multiple warheads. Today we are launching the first of these. Operation Last Resort has begun….
The Sentencing Commission’s website was offline for most of the day Saturday, but was restored and operational by the evening. The FBI is investigating the incident as a criminal matter.
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