Aaron Swartz and MIT: Deadly silence

IN JANUARY 2011 Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old prodigy, was arrested for downloading nearly 5m files from JSTOR, a store of academic articles, by secretly using the network of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). JSTOR, which nearly crashed, cut MIT off for several days. The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes “unauthorised” use of a network a felony. Prosecutors pressed for the stiffest penalties, which could have put him in prison for 35 years. In January he killed himself.Critics say that MIT has blood on its hands. Swartz’s defenders argue that he did have guest access to MIT’s network. And as a named “victim”, MIT could have asked for charges to be dropped, as JSTOR did. But in trying to remain “neutral”, the school—which has proudly fostered hacker culture and champions openness—stayed silent.A 180-page independent report by MIT released on July 30th exonerates the school while hinting that it could have behaved better. Now it is considering reforms, such as handling network infractions internally and altering the conditions under which it gathers and releases electronic records. But too late for the gifted, idealistic Swartz.

Link to article: www.economist.com/news/international/21582578-campaigner-academic-openness-gains-partial-posthumous-vindication-deadly-silence?fsrc=rss|int


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