On Sunday, the official site of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) went offline. On a couple of the website’s subdomains, Anonymous hackers published a message in memory of Aaron Swartz, the Reddit co-founder and activist who recently committed suicide.
“Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for […],” the hacktivists wrote on the defaced pages.
“Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, particularly their punishment regimes, and the highly-questionable justice of pre-trial bargaining. Aaron's act was undoubtedly political activism; it had tragic consequences,” they added.
The hackers ask the government to “reform” computer crime and copyright and intellectual property laws.
“We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response,” they wrote.
“We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.”
They concluded their statement by apologizing to MIT administrators for temporarily taking over the website.
MIT has ordered an internal investigation into the case of Swartz. Furthermore, JSTOR – the digital library that accused him of illegally downloading content – has released its own statement regarding Swartz’s death.
At the time of writing, the main MIT site appeared to be working properly. The subdomains that hosted the hacktivists’ message have been taken offline.
In the meantime, a petition to remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz has been created. The petition appears to be supported by both Anonymous and the controversial Kim Dotcom.