Aaron Swartz, from computer prodigy to cyber criminal to now, a cause


After committing suicide in his Brooklyn Apartment on Friday, the death of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz seems to be snow balling into a greater cause.

At a restless and chaotic afternoon at MIT, the 26 year old RSS developer and Reddit co-founder, was paid tribute to and remembered as a great programmer and challenging thinker. Aaron Swartz, it seems will soon be known as the hero of the ‘free culture movement’, a movement which believes in using the internet to provide quick and open access to knowledge worldwide.

Benjamin Hitov, a web programmer from Cambridge University broke into tears when he was first informed about the death of Swartz. He was found saying that all of them would want to be more like him and that most of them weren’t quite as idealist as him and believed that he was something that they should aspire towards.

On the other hand, the government of the United States though, has an entirely different take on Swartz.

He was arrested in 2011 for having supposedly hacked MIT’s computers to get his hands on millions of scholarly papers kept by JSTOR, an online digital library which provides scientific and literary data on a subscription only basis.

At the trial concerning this case which began in April, Swartz was faced with the possibility of having to pay millions of dollars as fine and serve up to 35 years of time in jail. The fact that the mentioned punishment could actually be announced in his case and transform into a lifelong nightmare haunted his soul for two years. Family and friends believe that is what eventually led to his suicide.

In the debate over whether information should be made more easily and widely available, Swartz played a developing factor, and will continue to affect the decisions made from here on wards.

On one hand were activists like Swartz and advocacy groups namely Electronic Frontier Foundation and Students for Free Culture and on the other hand was the government and private corporations who pressed upon the fact that there is some information that needs to be kept private for security and commercial reasons. Now, that Swartz is no more, the question that the ‘free culture movement’ is posing in front of the government is how will they now treat criminal cases against people like Swartz, who believe in ‘freeing’ information and not misusing it.

His family was briefly quoted saying that Aaron’s death was not just a personal tragedy, but was the outcome of a loophole in the criminal justice system. The decisions that were made by the officials in the Massachusetts U.S. attorney’s office and those at M.I.T. had contributed towards Swartz’s death.

Well, the need for information and the infringements involved in obtaining it still remains a cause unanswered. Whether Swartz’s death will provide as a relief or continue to exist as a grieve reminder is yet to unfold.

From ITvoir News Desk/Darab Bakhshi