Twitter Not Impressed By MIT’s Internal Report On Aaron Swartz

“A whitewash”…”Totally unsatisfying,” say Swartz’s supporters.

Twitter Not Impressed By MIT’s Internal Report On Aaron Swartz

MIT has released its internal report on its role in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz. In January 2013, Swartz, 26, a well-known Internet freedom activist, prodigy programmer, and entrepreneur, committed suicide while facing 13 felony counts related to his downloading of over 4 million articles from the scholarly database JSTOR using MIT’s network.

He had been the target of a two-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The case has become an international cause celebre in the world of Internet freedom and open culture activism. While JSTOR came out publicly against his prosecution, MIT did not. Instead, the review, led by MIT computer science professor Hal Abelson, finds that while maintaining a publicly “neutral” stance, MIT aided the investigation against Swartz by providing some documents to the Secret Service without subpoena.

The review castigates MIT’s role in the case in mild terms: “MIT is respected for world-class work in information technology, for promoting open access to online information, and for dealing wisely with the risks of computer abuse. The world looks to MIT to be at the forefront of these areas. … [B]y responding as it did, MIT missed an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership that we pride ourselves on.”

Reactions online were much harsher. Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Swartz’s girlfriend, called the report a “whitewash,” and said MIT had a “moral imperative” to oppose Swartz’s prosecution.

Quinn Norton, a journalist who has covered Anonymous extensively, was a target of the investigation as she used to date Swartz:

[Image by Flickr user ragesoss]

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.

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