Tag Archive: Aaron Swartz

Feb 11 2014

Today We Fight Back

Today we take action to end the massive surveillance of the National Security Agency (NSA).

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Click on image to participate

End NSA Massive Spying Programs

Dear Supporter,

We’ve told you about TODAY’s massive action against mass spying — and now it’s time to act.  We’re calling today The Day We Fight Back, and dozens of large organizations and websites and thousands of smaller ones are mobilizing their members and visitors to demand an end to broad suspicion-less surveillance.  

We announced it on the anniversary of the passing of Aaron Swartz, to honor him and to celebrate the victory over SOPA that he helped us achieve two years ago.

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If all of the organizations and sites that have signed on to the cause press forward today, we should be able to drive tens of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers to demand that the NSA’s mass spying programs be reined in.

Will you place one of those calls?  It’ll only take 2 minutes, and we’ll make it easy for you by giving you a call script and connecting you to the right office.

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

We understand the United States to be a democracy, founded upon a Constitution that affords us critical rights, and governed by the rule of law.

Yet for years, the NSA has exploited secret legal interpretations to undermine our privacy rights — thus chilling speech and activism, and thereby threatening to subvert the very underpinnings of our democracy itself.

We are demanding that decision makers remedy this by:

  * Passing the USA FREEDOM Act, which would end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and institute other key reforms.

  * Defeating the so-called FISA Improvements Act, which would entrench — and potentially expand — the spying.

  * Creating additional privacy protections for non-Americans.

  * Ending the NSA’s subversion of encryption and other data security measures.

And we’re not even that far from winning on at least one key front:

The USA FREEDOM Act has more than 100 bipartisan sponsors, including two powerful lead sponsors: Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who was the original author of the PATRIOT Act and is furious that it has been abused to spy on Americans en masse.

This summer an amendment that’s very similar to parts of the USA FREEDOM Act failed to pass in the House of Representatives by just a handful of votes. Enough lawmakers now say they would have voted in support that it would pass if it came up for a vote today.

Now we need to force a vote on the issue in the House, and a first vote on it in the Senate — and we’ll do that by putting pressure on lawmakers by calling and emailing them today.  Tens of thousands of people are poised to join the cause: Please be one of them.

Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

We’re going to persist in this fight, and we will win it.

In Solidarity,

Tim Carpenter

PDA National Director

We are in this fight together. It is time to act and end the massive surveillance of the NSA. Do it for yourself, for the future and to remember Aaron.

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Just click here to call your lawmakers.

Then, or if you can’t call, please click here to send an email to your lawmakers

Jan 23 2014

The Day We Fight Back

February 11 is The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

DEAR USERS OF THE INTERNET,

Aaron Swartz photo aaron_zps64907c15.jpg In January 2012 we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history. A year ago this month one of that movement’s leaders, Aaron Swartz, tragically passed away.

Today we face a different threat, one that undermines the Internet, and the notion that any of us live in a genuinely free society: mass surveillance.

If Aaron were alive, he’d be on the front lines, fighting against a world in which governments observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action.

Now, on the anniversary of Aaron’s passing, and in celebration of the win against SOPA and PIPA that he helped make possible, we are planning a day of protest against mass surveillance, to take place this February 11th.

The Internet’s Own Boy: Film on Aaron Swartz Captures Late Activist’s Struggle for Online Freedom

One year ago this month, the young Internet freedom activist and groundbreaking programmer Aaron Swartz took his own life. Swartz died shortly before he was set to go to trial for downloading millions of academic articles from servers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology based on the belief that the articles should be freely available online. At the time he committed suicide, Swartz was facing 35 years in prison, a penalty supporters called excessively harsh. Today we spend the hour looking at the new documentary, “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.” We play excerpts of the film and speak with Swartz’s father Robert, his brother Noah, his lawyer Elliot Peters, and filmmaker Brian Knappenberger.

Aaron Swartz: The Life We Lost and the Day We Fight Back

Amy Goodman, Truthdig

A year after Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz’s suicide at the age of 26, a film about this remarkable young man has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, titled “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,” directed by Brian Knappenberger, follows the sadly short arc of Aaron’s life. He committed suicide while under the crushing weight of unbending, zealous federal prosecutors, who had Aaron snatched off the street near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, accusing him of computer crimes.

At the age of 14, Aaron helped develop RSS, “Really Simple Syndication,” which changed how people get online content. He co-founded one of the Internet’s most popular websites, Reddit. In the year before his death, he helped defeat a notorious bill before Congress, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would have granted corporations sweeping powers of censorship over the Internet. Now, another fight for the freedom of the Internet has begun. This one will have to be waged without Aaron.

A coalition of Internet activists, technologists and policy experts are joining together on Feb. 11 for “The Day We Fight Back.” As they say on their website, reflecting on the victory against SOPA, “Today we face a different threat, one that undermines the Internet, and the notion that any of us live in a genuinely free society: mass surveillance. If Aaron were alive, he’d be on the front lines, fighting against a world in which governments observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action.” Before Edward Snowden made “NSA” and “mass surveillance” household terms, Aaron was speaking out against the National Security Agency’s bulk collection programs. His brother, Noah Swartz, told me, “I think Aaron’s message that we can all take with us is that … we can see the change we want to see in the world by participating, rather than feeling helpless and useless.”

Jan 11 2014

A Walk Across New Hampshire For Aaron

Aaron Swartz photo imagesqtbnANd9GcSri_QsacSc5jhQFcunN_zps1a2d5300.jpg Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of Aaron Swartz, the computer coder and Internet freedom activist, who committed suicide while facing prosecution on federal hacking charges. So, today, in Aaron’s memory and for the causes he believed in, Harvard University Professor Lawrence Lessig is walking across New Hampshire

He is trying to build a coalition called New Hampshire Rebellion to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics ahead of the crucial 2016 presidential primary in the state. [..]

Lessig said it was a conversation with Swartz that propelled him to shift the focus of his work from Internet freedom to political corruption in 2007.

“He said to me, ‘Why are you wasting your time working on these Internet issues or these copyright issues, when you know that none of the ideas you’re pushing would ever be addressed because of the political system?'” Lessig recalled.

Lessig is asking supporters to join him as he walks across New Hampshire in segments — 10 miles on Saturday, 20 miles on Sunday, more down the road — to reach out to voters. His walk also will honor the work of Doris Haddock, more commonly known as Granny D, the New Hampshire political activist who advocated campaign finance reform until her death in 2010 at age 100.

Aaron’s Walk: The New Hampshire Rebellion

By Lawrence Lessig, Huffington Post

A year ago tomorrow, Aaron Swartz left. He had wound us all up, pointed us in a million directions, we were all working as hard as we could, moving things forward. And then he was gone. [..]

I wanted to find a way to mark this day. I wanted to feel it, as physically painful as it was emotionally painful one year ago, and every moment since. So I am marking it with the cause that he convinced me to take up seven years ago and which I am certain he wanted to make his legacy too.

On Saturday, we begin a walk across the state of New Hampshire, to launch a campaign to bring about an end to the system of corruption that we believe infects DC. This is the New Hampshire Rebellion.

Fifteen years after New Hampshire’s Doris Haddock (aka, “Granny D”), at 88, began her famous walk from LA to DC with the sign “CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM” on her chest, a dozen or so of us will start to walk in Dixville Notch, NH, the place the first 2016 presidential ballots will be cast. For two weeks, with more than 100 joining us along the way, we will walk south across New Hampshire, ending up in Nashua, NH, on the day Granny D was born.

Along the way, we will recruit everyone we can to do one thing: We want them to ask every presidential candidate at every event between now and January 2016, this one question: “How will YOU end the system of corruption in DC?” [..]

You can help. Please help. You can still join the walk. You can spread the word of the walk (tweet #NHRWalk linked to nhrebellion.org). You can sign a petition from wherever you are to push the candidates to answer this one question. Or, with just a few clicks, you can send support that will help this movement grow.

For Aaron

Aug 01 2013

Their Silence Killed

There is no justice in following unjust laws.

~Aaron Swartz~

Aaron Swartz photo imagesqtbnANd9GcSri_QsacSc5jhQFcunN_zps1a2d5300.jpgThe long awaited internal report (pdf) of its roll of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the federal prosecution of Aaron Swartz for hacking into its computer system has been finally been released. Aaron was being charges by federal prosecutors with 13 counts of violating the Computer Frauds Act. He was facing a $1 million fine and up to 35 years in prison when he committed suicide in his Brooklyn apartment in January of this year. Aaron also suffered from severe depression.

The report found that MIT did not press for prosecution of Aaron for downloading several million academic articles from the JSTOR database through the MIT computer network, which were returned. However, the school did nothing to stop the over zealous prosecution.

In a Guardian article written by Amanda Holpuch, the report stated that the school viewed that US v Swartz was “simply a lawsuit to which it was not a party.” Yet, they told the prosecutors that that it was not seeking punishment for Swartz but never actually said that they were opposed to jail time. How these people thought that that they were “not party” to Aaron’s prosecution is simply beyond belief.

According to the report, prior to his death, “the MIT community paid scant attention” to Swartz’s prosecution and few people expressed concerns to the administration about the case. However, Swartz’s father, a consultant to the MIT lab and former student there, asked MIT to aid efforts to have the charges dropped or to get a plea deal that would not have jail time. Two faculty members advocated a similar appeal.

In choosing the position of neutrality, the report says the school did not consider Swartz’s contributions to internet technology and was not critical enough of the US government’s “overtly aggressive prosecution.” MIT also did not account for Swartz’s prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which the report called ” a poorly drafted and questionable criminal law.” That law has been widely criticised since Swartz’s death. [..]

Friends and family have been harshly critical of the report with Aaron’s partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, calling the report a “whitewash” on her blog.

She also criticized the school for objecting to a Freedom of Information Act request for the secret service files on Swartz’s case. The school took the unusual step of intervening in the request for government documents after a judge ordered the documents to be released in July.

The Wired reported that while MIT claimed it was “neutral,” it is very clear from the report that they willingly cooperated with the prosecution’s investigation:

MIT police called the Cambridge police, who showed up with a Secret Service agent from the New England Electronic Crimes Task Force – sparking the federal investigation.

The report says that MIT officially adopted a neutral posture with respect to the federal criminal case, treating it as an outside matter. But it also details extensive cooperation between MIT officials and federal agents and prosecutors.

MIT sniffed network traffic from Swartz’s computer and provided logs voluntarily to the government, without demanding a subpoena. And MIT did not offer to give Swartz’s defense team access to the employees interviewed by prosecutors. “The choice not to do this was based on a judgment that the criminal process was sufficiently fair, without the need for it to provide equality of outcome,” the report notes.

“The report makes clear that MIT was not neutral,” says Robert Swartz, who’d met with MIT repeatedly during the prosecution to plead for his son. “But they should not have been neutral. They should have advocated of Aaron’s behalf, because the law under which he was charged was wrong.”

“They cooperated with prosecutors in endless ways, and they were fundamentally opaque to us.”

My fervent hope that the people at MIT who decided to cooperate with the aggressive prosecution of Aaron sleep at night haunted by his face.

May 17 2013

Keeping the Government Transparent, Anonymously

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Thomas Jefferson to Dr. James Currie, January 28, 1786

Since the news broke that the Department of Justice had secretly seized two months of phone records of the Associated Press reporters and editors, it has had chilling effect on the future ability of reporters to gather information from anonymous sources. On May 15, The New Yorker launched Strongbox “an online place where people can send documents and messages to the magazine,” affording a reasonable amount of anonymity:

It was put together by Aaron Swartz, who died in January, and Kevin Poulsen. Kevin explains some of the background in his own post, including Swartz’s role and his survivors’ feelings about the project. (They approve, something that was important for us here to know.) The underlying code, given the name DeadDrop, will be open-source, and we are very glad to be the first to bring it out into the world, fully implemented.

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Click on image to enlarge

To get to Strongbox and begin using it to contact writers and editors at The New Yorker, just follow these two steps:

   (1) Download and install software to access the Tor Project: https://www.torproject.org/ This should only take a few minutes.

   (2)Once you have access to the Tor network, go to Strongbox at http://tnysbtbxsf356hiy.onion, where you will find further instructions on how to submit files and messages to The New Yorker.

Strongbox and Aaron Swartz

by Kevin Poulson

Aaron Swartz was not yet a legend when, almost two years ago, I asked him to build an open-source, anonymous in-box. His achievements were real and varied, but the events that would come to define him to the public were still in his future: his federal criminal indictment; his leadership organizing against the censorious Stop Online Piracy Act; his suicide in a Brooklyn apartment. I knew him as a programmer and an activist, a member of a fairly small tribe with the skills to turn ideas into code-another word for action-and the sensibility to understand instantly what I was looking for: a slightly safer way for journalists and their anonymous sources to communicate.

There’s a growing technology gap: phone records, e-mail, computer forensics, and outright hacking are valuable weapons for anyone looking to identify a journalist’s source. With some exceptions, the press has done little to keep pace: our information-security efforts tend to gravitate toward the parts of our infrastructure that accept credit cards.

Rachel Maddow interviewed the editor of The New Yorker magazine’s web site, Nicholas Thompson, about their “Strongbox” submission tool that allows sources to remain anonymous and untraceable when they submit a story tip.

This is how far we have come to protect the press and our constitutional right to know what the government is doing in our name. Thank you, Aaron and Kevin.

Feb 22 2013

Justice and the Law for Aaron Swartz

Law professor Lawrence Lessig marked his appointed as Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School with a lecture dedicated to the memory of internet activist Aaron Swartz and his work. Prof. Lessig was a close friend and mentor to Aaron and his death was a great loss to him. He had planned to lecture on corruption but after Aaron’s death decided to discuss Aaron’s Law and his work:

At the center of [Aaron’s] struggle is and was copyright.  In the debate between people who are pro and anti copyright, Aaron was on neither side.”  Rather, he opposed “dumb copyright.”  A perfect example was Swartz’s efforts to liberate data from PACER the database of public court records, which charged 8 cents a page.  He was not violating copyright, technical restraints, terms of service or any other prohibitions.  He had found a loophole.  “A loophole for public good” as opposed to the loopholes used for private gain by lobbyists and tax lawyers.  Swartz did the same thing with the government’s database of issued copyrights.  The PACER project got Aaron FBI surveillance; the copyright project, on the other hand, was met with approval by the Copyright Office.  Using all this as proof Lessig continued to emphasize that Aaron was a hacker.  He defines “hacker” as one who uses technical knowledge to make a better world.

According to Lessig, Aaron was his mentor, not the other way around.  The two worked together, upon Aaron’s insistence, on anti-corruption campaign for a while before they split again: while Aaron wanted to turn Barrack Obama into Elizabeth Warren, Lessig wanted Obama to pick up the fight with corruption he had promised in 2008.  Without that fight, the defenders of the status quo would defeat real change.

Aaron’s Laws – Law and Justice in a Digital Age’

Jan 27 2013

The Legacy of Aaron Swartz

The White House announced a National Day of Civic Hacking, June 1 – 2, 2013, as the internet continues to mourn the hacker and activist, Aaron Swartz, who died of suicide at age 26. Aaron’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director and founder of SumofUs.org joins host Chris Hayes; Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; Susan Crawford, professor for the Center on Intellectual Property & Information Law Program at Carodozo School of Law; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic on the Up with Chris panel to discuss the legacy of Aaron Swartz.

Jan 15 2013

In Aaron’s Name, Change This Law

SOPA Reddit WarriorComputer programmer, writer, archivist, political organizer, and Internet activist, but most of all son, brother and friend, Aaron Swartz tragically took his own life last week. One of the many achievements of Aaron’s too short life was to win a battle in the war for Internet Freedom, he helped lead the fight to Stop SOPA. SOPA was the Stop Online Piracy Act bill that sought to monitor the Internet for copyright violations and would have made it easier for the U.S. government to shut down websites accused of violating copyright.

This was Aaron’s address at F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012, Washington DC on May 21 2012.

Now we have a battle to fight in Aaron’s name to reform the law that overzealous federal prosecutors used against him, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Marcia Hoffman, senior staff attorney for Electronic Freedom Foundation, lays out the case for fixing this draconian law:

Problem 1: Hacking laws are too broad, and too vague

Among other things, the CFAA makes it illegal to gain access to protected computers “without authorization” or in a manner that “exceeds authorized access.”  Unfortunately, the law doesn’t clearly explain what a lack of “authorization” actually means. Creative prosecutors have taken advantage of this confusion to craft criminal charges that aren’t really about hacking a computer but instead target other behavior the prosecutors don’t like. [..]

Problem 2: Hacking laws have far too heavy-handed penalties

The penalty scheme for CFAA violations is harsh and disproportionate to the magnitude of offenses. Even first-time offenses for accessing a protected computer “without authorization” can be punishable by up to five years in prison each (ten years for repeat offenses) plus fines. It’s worth nothing that five years is a relatively light maximum penalty by CFAA standards; violations of other parts of that law are punishable by up to ten years, 20 years, and even life in prison. [..]

The Upshot

The CFAA’s vague language, broad reach, and harsh punishments combine to create a powerful weapon for overeager prosecutors to unleash on people they don’t like. Aaron was facing the possibility of decades in prison for accessing the MIT network and downloading academic papers as part of his activism work for open access to knowledge. No prosecutor should have tools to threaten to end someone’s freedom for such actions, but the CFAA helped to make that fate a realistic fear for Aaron.

In Aaron’s name please call on Congress and the White House to change this law.

Click here to send your message to your congressional representatives.

Please sign the Petition to President Barack Obama to Reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to reflect the realities of computing and networks in 2013.

Do this not just in Aaron’s name but mine, yours and everyone who uses the internet.

Jan 14 2013

In Memoriam: Aaron Swartz 1986 – 2013

The brilliant mind, righteous heart of Aaron Swartz will be missed



The transcript can be read here

Lean into the pain

by Aaron Swartz

When you first begin to exercise, it’s somewhat painful. Not wildly painful, like touching a hot stove, but enough that if your only goal was to avoid pain, you certainly would stop doing it. But if you keep exercising… well, it just keeps getting more painful. When you’re done, if you’ve really pushed yourself, you often feel exhausted and sore. And the next morning it’s even worse.

If that was all that happened, you’d probably never do it. It’s not that much fun being sore. Yet we do it anyway – because we know that, in the long run, the pain will make us stronger. Next time we’ll be able to run harder and lift more before the pain starts.

And knowing this makes all the difference. Indeed, we come to see the pain as a sort of pleasure – it feels good to really push yourself, to fight through the pain and make yourself stronger. Feel the burn! It’s fun to wake up sore the next morning, because you know that’s just a sign that you’re getting stronger.

Few people realize it, but psychological pain works the same way. Most people treat psychological pain like the hot stove – if starting to think about something scares them or stresses them out, they quickly stop thinking about it and change the subject.

The problem is that the topics that are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them. [..]

Next time you start feeling that feeling, that sense of pain from deep in your head that tells you to avoid a subject – ignore it. Lean into the pain instead. You’ll be glad you did.