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Online rights groups push for changes to hacking laws

18 Jan 2013

The death of Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz has led to calls from activist groups to overhaul hacking laws.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Thursday said that it will press to change what it termed as "horribly misused" hacking laws which were enacted against the RSS developer, Swartz.

Among the changes being sought by the EFF is an overhaul of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as changes in the law to protect users who wish to surf the web anonymously.

The EFF said that the changes would prevent other users from facing the legal sanctions imposed on Swartz at the time of his suicide.

"These ideas are a few small branches in a giant tree of potential reform. And it's a tree that needs to have strong roots," the EFF said.

"This root system is not just the larger Internet community, but the millions of people who saw Aaron as a principled person who was fighting for what he believed in and who faced an unjust punishment as a result."

Swartz, 26, had been facing prosecution and possible jail time for downloading and attempting to redistribute a collection of academic essays and educational materials from the JSTOR archive. He had been indicted on charges of computer misuse by the federal government, though the charges were posthumously dropped.

In the wake of the tragedy, the EFF is hoping that such laws will not be used in future. The group said that it would also be seeking to ease wire fraud laws and ensure that cases like the ones Swartz faced would carry felony charges.

The EFF is not the only group to seek action on behalf of Swartz. Earlier this week members of Anonymous carried out web site defacements against the FBI and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in protest of their handling of the Swartz case.

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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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