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Hacktivists mobilise after Aaron Swartz's death

15 Jan 2013

The death of Reddit co-creator and online rights activist Aaron Swartz has mobilised activist and hacktivist groups alike.

Two days after news of Swartz' suicide hit the wires, hackers affiliated with Anonymous launched an attack against the US Department of Justice and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The hacktivists defaced pages the sites and posted messages in support of Swartz and his fight against the government over allegations of piracy and intellectual property violations.

Prior to his death, Swartz had been facing charges for downloading and distributing a collection of data from an academic journal archive. Charges were dropped following the announcement of Swartz' death.

While organisations throughout the online world are mourning the loss of Swartz, some are hoping that his death will help to push efforts for reform in the way cybercrime laws are enforced and prosecuted. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) expressed hope that the incident will lead to more legal clarity.

The group noted in a post to its DeepLinks blog that had the case gone to trial, Swartz could have faced extensive fines and jail time for doing little more than reposting academic reports.

"The government should never have thrown the book at Aaron for accessing MIT's network and downloading scholarly research. However, some extremely problematic elements of the law made it possible," the EFF said.

"We can trace some of those issues to the US criminal justice system as an institution, and I suspect others will write about that in the coming days."

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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