Hacktivist group attacks MIT website following death of Aaron Swartz
Following accusations that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology contributed to internet activist Aaron Swartz’s suicide on Friday, hacktivist group Anonymous attacked the college’s websites and posted a memorial to Swartz which left students unable to access internet for three hours.
Swartz had been facing trial over allegations of breaking into MIT's computer system to access academic articles from the JSTOR digital library with the intention of making them freely available.
Following statement from his family, which accused prosecutors and MIT officials of being complicit in his death, a memorial to Swartz and a message calling for an overhaul of US computer crime laws appeared on MIT websites on Sunday evening.
In the message, Anonymous stated in red type that it did not hold MIT responsible, and apologised to the institution for the "temporary use of their websites", but described Swartz's prosecution as a "gross miscarriage of justice".
The message read: "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."
The message then linked to a petition calling for the removal of US district attorney Carmen Ortiz, who has been accused by Swartz supporters of using "overreaching charges”.