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Tell HN: Aaron Swartz died today, 8 years ago
939 points by ignoramous 4 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 181 comments
"Aaron is dead. Wanderers in this crazy world, we have lost a mentor, a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down, we have lost one of our own. Nurturers, carers, listeners, feeders, parents all, we have lost a child. Let us all weep." - Tim Berners Lee.

Thank you for everything, Aaron.

--

Discussions at the time:

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5046845

2. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5048820

Blog post in 2016 by Noah, Aaron's brother: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10881413






More than 10 years ago, I've asked Aaron about the best way to tell him "thanks for your job". He said what he has a big wishlist on Amazon, so I've chosen a couple of books and bought them to him. Since then, once a year I have an event in my calendar: "check out what's new on Aaron's wishlist". Don't know why I decide to write it today but this is a link for this wishlist, just for inspiration. I think it will help you to understand more about Aaron and his personality

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2A6HM9B19FOPW/


Thanks so much for posting this link. In the documentary "Internet's Own Boy" about Aaron( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M85UvH0TRPc ) some one made a insightful comment about Aaron. The insight is this, there are people who are highly technically capable and then there are people who live by high morals and sacrifice themselves for a political cause, but the intersection of the two in a same person is very very rare. And that very true. The only other person who fits in this category is probably Richard Stallman.

RMS does not do anything that interacts with politics and I don't think he's high morals, though I use Emacs.

Always reading, always learning. To the point when asked what reward can I give you, it's more learning and reading. Beautiful.

Having worked with all of the founders of SecureDrop (Aaron, James, and Kevin) to audit the alpha version it was tough to see Aaron go. Also super sad that we lost James a couple of years later too https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Dolan_(computer_security...

Cheers to everybody out there working on Internet freedom software. Thank you all for everything you do, next time you're at FOSDEM or browsing around some issues on github for your fav secure comms projects, let them know they are appreciated and they aren't doing this difficult work in a vacuum.

My .02 -Erik Cabetas-


Some years ago I prepared a (very short) list of people whom I want my future kids to know about. The first name I put down was Aaron's.

i would like to hear about that list. I have a one year old daughter, and i want her to know the good people.

Currently I have the ones that passed away during my adulthood that made a big impact in me:

- Aaron Swartz - Carl Sagan - Stephen Hawking - Paul Allen


Such a colossal loss!

If you haven't watched it, I'd recommend watching "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz". [1] It's a bit difficult to watch it more than once or twice. It'll leave you sad and angry.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Internet%27s_Own_Boy




edited my comment after yours, and removed the YT link. thank you.

>> It'll leave you sad and angry

Indeed.


Although Aaron made enormous contributions to many different technologies, I often think of reddit when I think of Aaron.

I often wonder how he would feel, not just about censorship there, but about the direction the entire Internet has taken in regards to censoring of content. I can't - and wouldn't - speak for him, but I would be supremely interested in his thoughts.


> censoring of content

The supreme irony of this is that Aaron's role as a co-founder has long been censored from Reddit's founders page [0], despite agreements to the contrary [1].

More generally, Aaron had strong views on censorship [2]:

> I think all censorship should be deplored. My position is that bits are not a bug – that we should create communications technologies that allow people to send whatever they like to each other. And when people put their thumbs on the scale and try to say what can and can’t be sent, we should fight back – both politically through protest and technologically through software like Tor...

> How is compromising [by a technology company on censorship] supposed to bring greater freedom in the long run? That’s like saying “I’m going to beat you up now so that you don’t have to be hit as much in the long run.” The right answer is to stop beating people up.

But I do think that physical violence resulting in part from the amplification of voices by algorithm would have been hard to foresee. I too would be curious if his thinking would have evolved. Sadly, we'll never know.

[0] https://reclaimthenet.org/aaron-swartz-reddit-founder/

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/1octb/reddit_co...

[2] http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-05-07-n78.html


> But I do think that physical violence resulting in part from the amplification of voices by algorithm would have been hard to foresee. I too would be curious if his thinking would have evolved. Sadly, we'll never know.

Something that always seems to be accepted without question in these conversations is that censoring violent language will reduce violent behaviour.

Are we sure this is the case? For example, if you believed the election was stolen and all the platforms which would allow you discuss this civilly have banned you and those who think like you - what do you do?

Sometimes I wonder if restricting peoples ability to express themselves freely (and also talking about them like they are scum for holding certain view points) might actually motative some number of people to make their voices heard through acts of violence.

I also dislike how I've been pushed on to what I'd consider extremist platforms in recent months because a few people I follow have been banned from platforms like Twitter and YouTube. I think I'm strong minded enough to resist the constant bombardment of anti-semitic and racist content I am now exposed to, but I suspect some people are likely to be radicalised by this.

----

To your point though, I often wonder how Aaron would have felt about the internet today. I've seen many people's opinions on free speech change over the years (including my own). Tech platforms when they were the underdogs were overwhelming in favour of free speech - I know early on Reddit and Twitter explicitely expressed their support of freespeech. But in recent years they have become far more powerful and it would seem their opinion on what they will allow us to say has now changed. Ironically they've moved so far on this that if Twitter, Facebook or YouTube were started today they would probably be shut down because of how much extremist content they platform - I remember there was a time when Reddit was full of child porn and even allowed a subreddit dedicated to it to operate.

I guess we'll never know how Aaron would have felt about all of this, but I know if there was anyone would could have proposed a workable solution it would have been him. It's a great shame he's no longer around to contribute to the future of the internet in the same way he did the internet of the past.


> Something that always seems to be accepted without question in these conversations is that censoring violent language will reduce violent behaviour.

Are we sure this is the case?

Yes, there have been studies on the correlation and causative links between the two. Ethical experimentation to prove causation definitively is difficult to say the least, but there have been various "natural experiments" that can be learned from.

At the very least, an extreme skeptic would still have to grudgingly acknowledge that violent speech is a leading indicator for violent behavior, and that interventions that reduce violent speech also reduce violent behavior, but the evidence is strong that the link goes beyond mere correlation. Here is one recent study: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10584609.2013.85...

A quote from the abstract: "Across all three experiments, mild violent metaphors multiply support for political violence among aggressive citizens, especially among young adults."

Not really a surprising result, but those who wish to employ violent speech for their own ends are of course quite resistant to the notion that there is a cause and effect link to be found.


It is not obvious that having someone publicly call for trial by combat at the capitol increases the probability of that happening, compared to no public proclamation? But what you're saying is that removing said content is going to somehow increase the violent behavior? By what means? Because you followed someone into to a cesspool? Then you were already drinking diluted pollution.

People do not get banned simply for being a member of a political party, people get banned for spreading hate and inciting violence. Maybe you should reconsider who you follow if the people you follow wallow in hate and bigotry?

Why doesn't the party of individual responsibility doesn't seem to understand you can just stop following the hate? Seek out and follow reasonable voices. But I'm afraid the whole appeal is more emotional resonance more than reason.

Tolerating hateful violent rhetoric will not de radicalize anyone.


> Maybe you should reconsider who you follow if the people you follow wallow in hate and bigotry? Why doesn't the party of individual responsibility doesn't seem to understand you can just stop following the hate? Seek out and follow reasonable voices.

There are a LOT of facets to an answer to that, but one that is entirely enabled by the technology industry is the concept of an algorithmic news feed promoting unsolicited content from not-yet-followed sources, especially when that algorithm is based on a function of "all of your activity over an extended period of time" and "the activity of people you interact with but whose views you never explicitly endorsed."

You cannot simply "just stop following the hate" when the hate is repeatedly shoved down your throat daily in conspicuous "join this group" ads in Facebook. And this is far, far more prominent than we had believed, per https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-platforms-must-pay-for-t... :

> Facebook’s own research revealed that 64 percent of the time a person joins an extremist Facebook Group, they do so because the platform recommended it. Facebook has also acknowledged that pages and groups associated with QAnon extremism had at least 3 million members, meaning Facebook helped radicalize 2 million people.

The frustrating thing about conversations about censorship on platforms is that you're not starting from a baseline of neutrality, because the algorithm itself is picking winners even if it wasn't coded that way. Any algorithm that takes engagement-after-clicking-a-promotion as an input will start to take advantage of people who are more susceptible to extremist content. Knowing what we know now, does the continued deployment of those algorithms constitute intentional corporate speech that emphasizes extremism? And in that case, would the removal or manual tuning of said corporate speech really be the censorship we're worried about?


Now I’m curious about who you follow that were banned from Twitter and YouTube.

I don’t know if any research has been done on this, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that a normalization effect happens so that more exposure to certain modes of discourse change how you think about them. Our minds are not under our conscious control, even if we would prefer that they are.

I suspect that our president’s mode of discourse has dramatically shifted what is seen as acceptable in a lot of people, for instance.


> I suspect that our president’s mode of discourse has dramatically shifted what is seen as acceptable

Why isn't that a rational response? Many of Trump's actions were wrong. However, he got away with them, and acceptable and normal are about what you can get away with, not what's right.


'normal' shifts with what people get away with, but 'acceptable' does not.

From the second link:

PG's opinion: "Aaron's not wrong to call himself one of the founders. The company behind Reddit was a merger of two startups, one that made Reddit and one that made Infogami, and in that situation the founders of both startups are considered founders of the combined company."


Aaron seemed very opposed to large corporations and their control of information. The increase of control seems to be timed and in favor with the incoming administration. Government using business to do its bidding is very troubling, and I'm sure Aaron would have been very concerned about that. Remember, this increase of power can be wielded by the next populist leader and there are plenty of dark possibilities outside of the current Overton Window.

I've often spoken with my more left-leaning friends about the need to try and find middle ground with my more right-leaning friends, and quickly.

Donald Trump was an incompetent, by almost any measure you want to use. However, he shifted the Overton Window dramatically. When the Republican version of Barack Obama bursts onto the scene - someone eloquent, competent, and thoroughly able to move effectively in the political sphere, there could be a very real problem for Democrats.


If a sitting President can be deplatformed from the Internet, then wouldn't a Presidential Candidate be? Would said candidate be able to run a successful campaign without it?

If they incite violence yeah. Is that confusing?

Check back when Bernie (or the next Bernie, if he doesn't run again) is deplatformed, and we'll see who was confused.

Just remember back to how the media and establishment pulled together to stop Bernie during the primaries. Think this new tool won't be used the next time they're in danger of losing power to an outsider?


If "the next Bernie" promotes violence then he's not the next Bernie and I won't support him and I don't understand what's so hard to understand about that.

Y'all think "it's both sides" but, in America, this call to violence (straight up armed insurrection) is unique in right wing politics. And if it showed up in the Left I wouldn't tolerate it.

Show me someone on the right who was deplatformed who didn't preach hate.


I can show you people on the left who got deplatformed.

What's that feminist lady who literally got banned for saying, "Men are not women."? I forget her name. I'm waiting for Joanne Rowling to get deplatformed for having the audacity to think that there's a portion of transgender men who are using certain aspects of the left's current moral panicking to infiltrate women's spaces.

How dare she have an opinion that's critical of ... shuffles cards... whatever group we feel the need to swoop in and save to assuage our guilt for being the world's most successful society!


Deplatforming is when a company kicks someone off its service for violating TOS. Canceling is when a community who previously supported someone sees another side of them and changes its mind. I believe you're conflating the two. But neither is a call to violence. As others have said, stop the false equivalence.

There's exactly a call to violence, because that's all you left for the person you're censoring.

As soon as you take the position that words can no longer be exchanged, the only other option you've left open is violence.

This isn't - or at least shouldn't - be hard to understand.


Please stop with the false equivalencies.

Donald Trump directed a mob to storm the Capitol while they were certifying election results, the ensuing riot led to at least five deaths.

He is being deplatformed because of the impending threat of violence he presents. This isn't a hypothetical situation - he held a rally, incited a riot, and people died.


Not saying it is or will be the same. It isn't and won't be.

This is about a TOOL. You don't have to use a tool the same way every time.


> someone eloquent, competent, and thoroughly able to move effectively in the political sphere

How will they be able to deplatform that? Are you endorsing deplatforming anyone to the right of Joe Biden?


No, just extrapolating from here. It could be used against the next Bernie too. Any populist candidate, whether from the left or right.

Frankly, when the Republican version of Barack Obama arrives, it's game over for the United States as a democracy.

I'm bullish on Democrats due to demographic shifts, but they'll need to gain more senators from rural states if they want to pass major legislation.

GOP has to somehow consolidate Trumpists with Never Trumpers, may be tricky to do. How will independents respond to GOP after Trump is finished? Will they forgive and forget?

So, in my view, both parties need to adapt or they will not achieve that much. Imagine if Dems had 49 senators, how little would get done in Biden's term, indeed that may be the case after midterms.


In this election, Trump received more votes than any other sitting president in history. He lost and now the Democrats seem to assume that those 75M people will suddenly change their beliefs because 78M people hold different beliefs. Moreover, it seems that people voted against Trump more than for Biden because they thought Trump was rude and distasteful.

They fail to recall that this was actually a political route for Democrats. Democrats lost seats in the House when they were expected to gain. They eked out parity in the Senate that probably disappears in 2 years. More importantly, they lost almost all state government races.

Remember, Trump's biggest policy positions (bring our troops home, bring our jobs back, hard on china, the wall, etc) were all Democrat positions a mere 5-7 years ago. Now that the Republicans have taken over those more centrist ideas, they have gained a huge number of supporters.

The Democrats are fractured between centrists and progressives. That fracture is much worse than the Republicans because it is ideological while the Republican fracture is a cult of personality.

Trump will fade. Another person will replace him. They will have all of his populism and charm (yes, he's a natural entertainer). They won't have his rude abrasiveness. He'll then have the majority needed to censor the other side now that the Republicans have decided they agree with the progressives on that point.


I do hope that happens. Seeing that all principles here on censorship essentially turn into "censor those not on my side", I'd derive some meagre satisfaction from that backswing, even if I too well burn at that same stake.

I can't reply directly to hijile below, so I'll leave this here:

>>Democrats seem to assume that those 75M people will suddenly change their beliefs

as long as 78M people continue to hold their beliefs, I really don't think the democrats care. A minority vote is a minority vote - whether its 4.9 percent or 49 percent. Personally, I think the dems will work more towards eliminating the EC and gerrymandering thats gone against them.

edit: change second '4.9' to '49'. I really need more coffee..


Which demographic shifts specifically?

Or remove the electoral college (which is an anti-democratic contrivance originally meant to cajole then-slave states into remaining in the Union[0]) and make voting mandatory to completely nuke the GOP's strategy of voter disempowerment (which is their best hope as demographic shifts increasingly favor the Democrats).

0: https://time.com/4558510/electoral-college-history-slavery/


The South could have a 3/5 slave vote with or without an electoral college. That was related to total votes and representatives in congress. If anything, Shay's Rebellion was the real reason. The majority (farmers) voted with their guns to steal from the minority (bankers).

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to eat for supper. Several Federalist papers are dedicated exclusively to this idea and the problems of previous democracies. Defending minorities (specifically religious minorities) was the primary reason for going with a Constitutional Republic instead.

The Senate was a similar concession that smaller or less populous states deserved equal voice to larger states. I'd note that if slavery were the reason for the formation, then the Senate would have been a bad idea as it stripped power away from the Southern states (as that article points out, Virginia alone had more than 10% of the total House votes).


> I’d note that if slavery were the reason for the formation, then the Senate would have been a bad idea as it stripped power away from the Southern states (as that article points out, Virginia alone had more than 10% of the total House votes).

Its true that with the apportionment of House votes in the Constitution, the Senate (by comparison) had weaker representation of the South (30.8% in the Senate, 35.4% in the House), but, as with terms explicitly protecting slavery, the concern wasn’t for the immediate effect, but as insurance against trends that were already apparent with the expected internal and external expansion of the US and its political development.

With the first Congress seated after the apportionment due to the 1790 Census (which included Kentucky, admitted in 1792), the Senate already was slightly more favorable to the South than the House (the South had 38.4% of the Senate and 37.1% of the House). With the Congress seated after the 1800 apportionment, the South had 46.1% of the Senate, and 39.0% of the House.

The idea that the Senate would have been a “bad idea” in terms of political power in the South assumes that no one at the time of the Constitution had even considered the possibility of thinking a few years down the road.


That's a single legal scholar's interpretation, not even a historian's.

I agree. As someone pretty far on the left I was shook by the banning of Donald Trump, and this trend of censorship makes me really, really, really scared.

If you're anything but a very centrist Democrat, this should scare the crap out of you.


The actual Left has been a target of private censorship and public suppression even when the Right got a free pass for so long that, as someone on the Left, I’m not at all scared that some private censorship is happening to violent extremists on the Right (mildly surprised, but not scared.)

Though “you should be scared because what has been happening to the Left longer, and much more severely, than to the Right might happen to you” is a pretty common propaganda theme directed at the Left by the Right recently.

Unlike the Right, which has had an existence of extreme privilege where even the KKK got a pass on government scrutiny because it was valued loyal organization around the same time that the second big round of government institutionalized anti-Communist hysteria, the Left has been built around organizations to route around establishment suppression for over a century.

And most people to the left of center-right neoliberal Democrats are quite aware of that.


While this is true, on the internet at least I haven't seen leftists sites like revleft or crimethinc get denied access to hosters, yet.

But yes, you're right that the left is the source of private censorship for a long time, which is why lemmy is developped by a lot of leftists, for example. If they're ready to ban a right wing president though, I can imagine how severe the crackdown on the left would be.


Honestly, if leftists start calling for violent Revolution because they lose an election, I’m not going to be too upset if they get deplatformed too. Perhaps I’m just too comfortable with my life, but I suspect most other people would agree.

Leftists spaces online got censored because they said things as benign as "killing slave owners is morally justifiable when necessary", so I think they still have a point.

This can only be true if Republican efforts at voter suppression continue to be successful while also states don’t choose to forgo the electoral college. Republicans only win because of a tremendously successful campaign to not let people vote. They are very much a minority party by any measure except outsized influence.

They have fewer voters.

Fewer people identify with them.

Fewer people support their policies.

If Democrats can continue to get voters out, like in GA, they will lose seats.


There's an interesting problem here, though, which is why the US federal government is structured as it is: there are fewer people in, say, Utah than in California. And generally people in California may have different interests than those in Utah. But as citizens of the US, Utah(ians?) deserve representation at the national level, which they just wouldn't have in a first-past-the-post popular vote. A direct popular vote would always give the advantage to candidates who represent coastal and urban interests because that's where people are overwhelmingly concentrated, and this would leave rural voters disenfranchised.

It might be interesting to re-evaluate whether representation by geography still makes sense. I'm more partial to the parliamentary approach, where parties get representation proportional to votes cast for them, so this way there could be a "rural interests party" which rural voters could vote for and receive representation proportional to their population. This might also do an end-run around the mind-bogglingly corrupt practice of gerrymandering?


The question of what to call citizens of Utah is a long and thorny one; currently the US Government Printing Office uses "Utahn." [0]

Apparently this was a big 'issue' in the 80's, when the US government usage was "Utahan" or "Utahian," while the local usage was "Utahn." Webster's currently lists "Utahan" as the correct usage, as far as I can tell (their website is trash - searching for "Utahan" and "Utahn" just redirects to the "Utah" entry.

[0] https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-STYLEMANUAL-2016/pdf...


> The increase of control seems to be timed and in favor with the incoming administration. Government using business to do its bidding is very troubling

Is that really the case with Facebook, Twitter, et al.? Didn't Facebook and Twitter have favorable standing with Trump's administration (vis a vis keeping Trump on the platform despite his violating their ToS repeatedly)?


I have some doubts about this claim of Trump "violating their ToS repeatedly" I just google'd "trump tos violations list" and nothing like a clear list came up. That should be relatively easy, right? Especially after 1/6? Here's a search from before this year:

https://www.google.com/search?q=trump+twitter+violations+%22...

"When the looting starts, the shooting starts" came to mind (you have to go to archive.org to view it, which is kinda sad in a way... are videos of the 3rd Reich next to go?):

https://web.archive.org/web/20200701003329/https://www.latim...

Can anyone come up with one?


Part of the current dilemma is people think only other people's comments are removed [1]. The more people who discover how it works, the less people can take advantage of those who don't.

[1] https://www.reveddit.com


Driving someone to suicide because they acted against entrenched copyright interests was one of the most DoJ moments ever.

Hence I reflect on this as murder by the state.

It happened before (like Gary Webb), and sadly I'm afraid it will happen again. They (govt) seems more interested in big corp's needs than people's needs. This democracy-thing is a big lie, a facade.

RIP Aaron.


Gary Webb's suicide involved two shots to the head -- quite a feat. I find it difficult to believe that he killed himself.

Personally, I also find it difficult to believe that Aaron Swartz killed himself.


> This democracy-thing is a big lie

Do you think a majority of the US opposes copyright and would not want the State to enforce it? I'm in that group, but it seems to me the overwhelming majority of people here support copyright laws and prosecutions.


The overwhelming majority don't have any epistemic basis for what they believe and are just saying what they think is socially-acceptable to say.

Sounds like democracy probably isn’t a good choice then.

Cannot have a solid democracy without heavily educating. It's has be said before, and I will say it again. Examples: Scandinavian countries, Germany.

Sadly, the type of people who rise to the top of corporations and democratic governments are the same who rise to the top of autocratic governments. At least, in a democracy, it seems like they're under some existential threat (as slim as that may be). In better democracies, the threat is less slim. And I think things are getting and will get better.

It seems like a default to the status quo for most, and in a broad sense I think aligns with people’s notions that they should be compensated for their work. I don’t think that the majority position on the issue is particularly informed and perhaps if it were things would change.

Enforcing it and bringing someone to suicide is miles apart.

But on topic: copyright that works for decades has been lobbied into existence, it's not something average people "want". So, no, I dont think most Americans want to pay for several decades of copyright enforcement. Same for software patents, or extended-length patents in general. Something like 10 years is more than enough "head start". Yay for a rich commons!!


He was offered a 6 month sentence in a low security prison. He could have served that sentence before the trial was even set to begin and resumed his life as programmer and activist. He was not murdered, he suffered from severe mentally illness.

>He was not murdered, he suffered from severe mentally illness.

Maybe having one of the most powerful governments use its might to crush someone and make an example does that to people?

Normal people are scared of a manager, a college professor, or making a presentation; imagine how they'd feel if the U.S Government was on their case specifically.


He was not going to get crushed by the government, he was going to serve a 6 month sentence in a low security facility. This is the sort of sentence one might receive for stealing a car. Are those individuals “crushed” by the government?

My point is that the situation would put anyone's resilience to the test.

Millions of people in the US have served sentences of similar length or longer

Millions of people have cats.

Well, if they knew so much else about him, maybe they should have been aware of his illness and appropriately (ie Justly) addressed the situation rather than making an example of him.

> maybe they should have been aware of his illness and appropriately (ie Justly) addressed the situation rather than making an example of him.

While I don't think Aaron Swartz should've been prosecuted (or at least not charged with everything they did), this statement in general is not the job of the prosecutors. If it were, then many charges would have to be dropped/reduced in the case of people with mental illness (where it's not considered part of the defense proper) or other medically compromised individuals. That's kind of an absurd position to take. If X suffers from clinical depression, but has committed (or is accused of committing) some serious crime, should the charges be reduced or the sentence reduced based on these circumstances? Or should they be charged and considered the same as anyone else would be for the same crimes?

This reeks of the same kind of abuse of prosecution as the affluenza case.


your aside about "defense proper" is kind of the point, but extended to another branch of the justice system (ie policing) . I think we've seen a similar sentiment in 2020 over how many people are unhappy about how the police are going about their jobs.

That aside, in particular, was meant in the sense of: The mental illness can be seen as causal or mitigating. Like, a person suffering from a schizophrenic break could reasonably use that as a defense (not to avoid all treatment/punishment, but as a mitigating factor or to have the consequences moved from prison time to a medical facility) for a crime committed during that break (a sincere belief that they're in danger or that someone was the devil leading them to commit an assault or worse). Depression could similarly be used in a defense like that as depression (in severe cases) can similarly cause breaks with reality or reduced capacity for self-control.

But having severe depression or being schizophrenic, on its own, is not a good justification for changing/reducing charges and consequences (sadly, consequences in the US are punishments as there's little focus on rehabilitation). If anything, it could reasonably affect the sentencing to account for the riskier consequences of placing a person with that mental condition into a medium or high security prison or general population, but not the selection of charges by the prosecutor.


I think we're talking past eachother because it seems you're being descriptive of what is, and I'm being more prescriptive about what ought

So your argument is that depressed people should be able to avoid trial altogether? He wasn’t even in custody when he took his own life.

no, just that policing needs to be made a good deal less scary. Also, at least as I understand it peripherally, it can be sufficiently punitive just to lay chargers and force the other person to prove their innocence. This includes lost time from legitimate activities (school/work), lost wealth (lawyers, opportunity cost), and the emotional trauma of fighting a near unlimited resource state versus your own very limited resources to prove they're the ones who are acting unjustly.

It's easy to play down stuff like this without considering the later consequences of having a record..

Aaron already suffered from severe mental illness - law enforcement did not drive him to suicide. Prosecutors offered him a plea deal if he took a six month sentence in a low security facility, which he turned down before killing himself. 99.9% of people his age would not end up dead by their own hands in that situation.

From wikipedia:

> On September 12, 2012, federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment adding nine more felony counts, which increased Swartz's maximum criminal exposure to 50 years of imprisonment and $1 million in fines. During plea negotiations with Swartz's attorneys, the prosecutors offered to recommend a sentence of six months in a low-security prison, if Swartz would plead guilty to 13 federal crimes. Swartz and his lead attorney rejected that deal, opting instead for a trial in which prosecutors would have been forced to justify their pursuit of Swartz

Let's be clear, this isn't "here's a slap on the wrist and we'll let it slide", this is "we're throwing the book at you on trumped up charges", and require him to plead guilty to 9 felonies to avoid a potential 50 year sentence.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Swartz#United_States_v._...


For an interesting comparison, consider the first person to be charged under CFAA. He's a co-founder and partner at YC. Both defendants were the children of parents who were involved with early UNIX, one at Bell Labs and NSA, and the other as founder of the Mark Williams Company. One kid got probation, community service and a fine. The other was not so fortunate. If we compare the actual damages caused by each, the result seems to violate any notion of proportionality.

When you see a DoJ press release talking about someone potentially facing a very long sentence, they don't mean that the particular person being indicted is facing such a sentence.

They mean that if you take the maximum possible sentence that someone could get for each individual charge, and then added up all those individual maximums, you get their press release figure.

There are two big problems with that.

1. Various federal crimes are grouped for sentencing. Roughly, if one single act could be charged with N different crimes, and you are convicted for all N the sentence is not sum of the sentences for each, it is max of the sentences for each. An indictment, say, of 5 charges each with a 20 year max but that all fall in the same group would be listed as 100 years in the press release, but would really only be 20.

I find it appalling that the DoJ does not take into account grouping when writing press releases. Unlike point #2 below, grouping doesn't have much of a subjective component that won't be resolved until trial. DoJ has everything needed when they write the press release to figure out what charges group.

2. The maximum listed for each charge is what someone who committed the worst imaginable instance of that crime could get. Someone who had all the various factors that can affect sentence length go against them.

Unless you are doing your crime for a lot of money, as part of something like a drug cartel or the mob, people got physical hurt or there was a good chance they could have, you caused huge economic loses, and you have a serious prior criminal record, you ain't getting anywhere near the max.

First time offender, not for monetary gain, no one physically hurt, not doing it as part of some larger criminal enterprise? Somewhere near the low end, with a decent chance of just a few years parole instead of jail time.

Here are some articles. The first covers federal sentencing in general. The second two cover it in the context of the Swartz case and also look at each charge.

https://www.popehat.com/2013/02/05/crime-whale-sushi-sentenc...

http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/14/aaron-swartz-charges/

http://www.volokh.com/2013/01/16/the-criminal-charges-agains...


> When you see a DoJ press release talking about someone potentially facing a very long sentence, they don't mean that the particular person being indicted is facing such a sentence.

Short ver: DoJ: either make our prosecutorial life easy or we're going to harm you way beyond what is ethical.

Long ver: DoJ: You did A. Lobbyists have composed and purchased laws against A. Those lobbyists are pressuring their legislators to have us deploy high-profile Gov revenge on their behalf.

We want to charge you with B and have you accept that w/o resistance. To that end we are charging you with B,C,D,E,J,K,L,Q,R,S,T,V,Y and some Dr. Seuss letters we came across.


The whole concept of plea deals is insane (but then again, so is the concept of "justice" in the US) and it's sad to see it being defended here.

Sidestepping the issue of the severity of his crime, the concept of "plead guilty to X and waive your rights to a fair trial" or go to a trial which is made unfair by trumped up charges (thus increasing the corresponding sentence by orders of magnitude) almost as revenge for exercising your right to a trial doesn't sound like justice to me. Either someone is guilty and the state can prove it (and is willing to expend resources to do so) or he isn't - nobody should be forced to make such a choice.


Nobody is defending plea deals here. Aaron was offered an excellent deal, regardless of how indefensible plea deals might be in general.

Aaron was forced into a case where his options are 1) take the deal, waive your right to a trial and serve a certain sentence, or 2) exercise your right to a trial and in revenge get a much heavier sentence (some people here mention a max of 30 years - even rapists and murderers can get less than that) since the commonplace nature of plea deals over time devalues the "true" sentences as written in the law because nobody serves them.

Frankly I don't think this situation delivers justice to neither the victim nor the defendant. If we assume the defendant is guilty, why should he be allowed to get off with a sentence that's 29 years lower than what it should be? If we assume that the defendant is not guilty, is it fair to force him to pick between a fair trial and potential 30 years of prison or 6 months without trial, given that even someone that's not guilty would most likely take the deal and this perverts the course of justice by essentially jailing people based on mere allegations without a trial?


>some people here mention a max of 30 years - even rapists and murderers can get less than that

Those people either don't know what they're talking about or are deliberately seeking to mislead.

>According to Swartz’s defense attorneys, prosecutors claimed that they thought the judge might impose a Guidelines sentence as much as 7 years if Swartz went to trial and was convicted. That’s consistent with a loss valuation in the range of millions of dollars. In contrast, Swartz’s lawyers thought that Swartz might get just probation, which is consistent with a loss calculation at or less than $10,000.

http://volokh.com/2013/01/16/the-criminal-charges-against-aa...

>So, realistically, Swartz was facing anything from probation to a few years in jail if he went to trial — depending largely on how you value the loss he caused — and either a 4 months in jail or 0-6 months in jail if he pled guilty.


> Aaron was offered an excellent deal,

That's a pretty extraordinary claim, as he had competent legal counsel (I think?) and they rejected it.


No, he was offered a bad deal. Copyright violations very rarely result in prison for first time offenders. He also did a mild case of hacking which together might have resulted in a short sentence. But if he had gone to court I doubt he would have got more than 4-6 months, which is the same thing as the plea deal.

Swartz wasn't torrenting pirated movies. He was essentially trying to mirror JSTOR. He was programmatically downloading massive numbers of articles, and using mac address spoofing to avoid triggering rate limiting. He also authored a manifesto explicitly declaring his intent to knowingly break the law: https://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamj...

Copyright violations rarely result in prison sentences, but copyright violators are rarely seeking to violate copyright on the same scale and with the same outspoken ideological justification as Swartz.


> copyright violators are rarely seeking to violate copyright on the same scale and with the same outspoken ideological justification as Swartz

I disagree. I'd say that Swartz's actions to try and make research freely available online (especially when said research is often funded by taxpayers and not by the copyright holders of the resulting paper) is more noble than for example pirates who publish entertainment material such as movies, music, etc.


It wasn't because of a copyright violation. It was because after he was booted off MIT's network for violating their TOS, he went out of his way to find another way to get back on their network by unauthorized means and resume the same activity he got kicked off for.

In response to the question "What is the ethical justification for 52 years of stacked federal charges?", is this your final answer?

If he had taken the deal and not killed himself he would be alive now and a free man 8 years later. Instead he is dead forever. I think the deal was not that bad by comparison.

It depends on how you value freedom.

There's no freedom when you're dead.

99.9% of people were not him.

> law enforcement did not drive him to suicide

People can keep repeating this, and it will still be false. LEO and Prosecutor action was the proximate cause of his actions.

You can make moral arguments that, say, the prosecutor was Just Doing His Job, and I may even agree with you. But you and everyone else are simply wrong about cause and effect, and attempting to blur that tells me more about your priors and biases than anything about the situation.


A substantial number of people commit suicide following loss of one's job. Would you feel it's fair to say that their bosses drove them to suicide?

I'd say no. Most of such cases, like Swartz, had existing mental conditions that are primarily responsible for their decision to commit suicide. Loss of a job may have been the event that ultimately prompted the act, but the driving factors were mental conditions. Saying that these people were driven to suicide conflates these cases with like this where someone is actively driving someone else to suicide: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Conrad_Roy


People are obsessed with blame. Get over it. This isn't about blame or guilt. It is about cause and effect.

I think it is "fair" to describe action B as following from action A, when there is good reason to consider them related.

If you revise your observations of reality based on what you fear might happen later, you're not observing reality.


Aaron’s story is good example of why blaming the suicide of someone with severe depression on whatever proximate cause triggered the act is the wrong way to understand why someone takes their own life. Many suicides are prompted by trivial or very temporary situations that are not at fault.

> Many suicides are prompted by trivial or very temporary situations that are not at fault.

I am part of a support group that is dominated by people who've attempted suicide.

The words trivial and temporary don't describe any part of their journey.

What is common, is how these people were harmed by the self-interested and misguided actions of others.


That presumed that the whole trial wasn’t the cause of the mental issues. I’m sure that facing an immoral DOJ out for blood caused him a lot of stress and depression (or triggered any latent issues).

It's rather well documented that Aaron had been thinking about suicide long before getting mixed up with the DOJ http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/341150

Did you actually read that link? He wrote the alleged “suicide note” in a moment where he was suffering from extreme physical pain as that was his way of expressing it to give himself some mental release. On top of all of that he was dealing with getting fired which itself can be a mindfuck.

To me the proximate cause 100% was the legal case against him - it inflamed any underlying issues and they just kept pressing. I could be wrong of course but I don’t think anyone will ever truly know what was happening in his head.


I did read that link. People without mental issues don't tend to post suicide notes, regardless of whatever physical pain or employment issues they might be facing.

It's fairly clear that Swartz had a history of suicidal ideation, this wasn't of the DoJs making no matter how unfairly they may have treated him.

>To me the proximate cause 100% was the legal case against him - it inflamed any underlying issues and they just kept pressing. I could be wrong of course but I don’t think anyone will ever truly know what was happening in his head.

Obviously the cause was his preexisting mental issues, a healthy individual would not kill themselves in his situation.


Suicidal ideation is regular & there's a very clear step jump function in how its treated by psychotherapists vs a genuine intent to commit suicide. Until you make concrete plans to harm yourself or others, ideation is just that. Most people keep it private but I don't believe there's any literature that indicates that voicing that ideation publicly somehow makes you more likely to actually enact it.

You're arguing that DoJ didn't create the opportunity for Aaron to kill himself, they merely seized upon it and got an even stronger outcome than they were hoping for.

It's not clear how that addresses DoJ's highly unethical choice to stack 52 years of federal prison time.

If you go down the path of blaming external factors for suicides it’s going to get messy pretty fast. How many suicides were because of Eminem songs? How many suicides were because of the lack of suicide nets on the Golden Gate Bridge? How many suicides are because of a break up?

Whose fault was Epstein’s suicide?

Robin William’s?

R. Budd Dwyer?


> Whose fault was Epstein’s suicide?

You all know what I'm going to say here.

As for the rest, it's a fine line. There are obviously individual variances in how much it would take to push someone over the edge, I can certainly see how nine felonies would be enough in the case of Aaron's example.


I'll just quote myself,

> attempting to blur that tells me more about your priors and biases than anything about the situation

And right on cue, here comes someone who would rather talk about Eminem and Epstein to blur the situation than talk about the actual situation.


I actually feel some sympathy for both positions here.

On the one hand, it's such a "no brainer" to take such a light sentence for what is legally such a "serious crime".

On the other hand, though, it feels ridiculous that Aaron would have been put in jail at all for what he did. I think it's fair to say he wasn't in a good place, but it's maybe a little tone deaf to say the grief of the trial and prosecution had no role in his suicide.


> On the one hand, it's such a "no brainer" to take such a light sentence for what is legally such a "serious crime".

This here is really the insidious nature of what the plea bargain system has evolved into.


Of course it had a role in his suicide, but no person who was not already very mentally ill would have ended their life in that situation. The narrative that prosecutors wanted to effectively ruin his life for his criminal offenses is just wrong.

They were threatening him with 50 years in jail and a million in fines or accepting an immoral (to him, and as a more broadly held belief of many) punishment with no opportunity to defend himself and the prospect of a lifelong record of serious crimes.

How is that not an effort to ruin someone’s life?


Plenty of great people like Mandela spent a long time in jail for unjust reasons, and continued their protest from there. I think aaronsw could have done the same except he had bad luck and wasn't in a strong place at a critical time. I don't hold the prosecutors responsible for Aaron's suicide any more than I hold myself responsible for not publicly doing more to help him. From my conversations and dealings with aaron, I believe he was willing to die for his ideas, which were correct and true and just. I hope to god someday we can build the world he envisioned where everyone, regardless of wealth or location or creed, has access to the world's best knowledge and information.

I don’t think Aaron’s criminal record would have impacted his life much at all. If anything it would have burnished his credentials and credibility as an activist.

He wanted to run for office in the future and saw catching a felony as a risk to that goal

Then he should not have committed a dozen or so felonies

Actually he was offered even less, 4 months.

http://volokh.com/2013/01/16/the-criminal-charges-against-aa...

>The alternative sentence to consider is what Swartz would have received if he had agreed to plead guilty. According to Swartz’s lawyers, the prosecutors in the case offered two different pleas. First, they would agree to a sentence of four months if Swartz agreed to plead guilty to the felonies. And second, they could agree to a deal in which Swartz agreed to plead guilty, the government would argue for a 6 month sentence, and Swartz could argue for a lesser sentence (presumably including probation). In all likelihood, the judge would have then sentenced Swartz to 4 months under the 1st plea and whatever the judge thought appropriate, up to 6 months, under the second plea.


Which makes it even worse. A 4 month plea deal on a 50 year maximum sentence is clear evidence of that something is vet wrong.

It either means the deal or the max sentence is wrong.


You’re not wrong, but “50 year maximum sentence” is off by at least an order of magnitude.

The judge is not bound by a plea agreement in federal court.

I appreciate your perspective.

This is a memorial thread with a bias to grieving and celebrating Aaron. By making your points, others appear to assume you're criticizing him for taking his life (which is not your intent or how I perceive your stance).


Many people use Aaron’s death as a political cudgel by essentially lying about the events leading to his suicide in order to paint him has a martyr who was murdered by cruel and vengeful prosecutors. He was in fact a severely mentally ill individual who’s death should be remembered as a tragedy resulting from severe depression, not politically motivated homicide.

That's all right then

What evidence is there the plea deal was offered? Sounds like PR by the state.

> During plea talks held in the months before his death, federal prosecutors told Aaron Swartz and his attorney that the computer prodigy must spend six months behind bars and plead guilty to 13 federal crimes in order to resolve the criminal case short of a trial.

> Swartz’s lead defense attorney, Elliot Peters, said today that both he and Swartz rejected the plea deal offered by the office of US Attorney Carmen Ortiz, and instead were pushing for a trial where federal prosecutors would have been forced to publicly justify their pursuit of Swartz.

First result on Google.


You don’t have to ask me, the information can be found on google within seconds.

You're offering the information, the least you could do is provide your source.

I liked Swartz a lot. He was idealistic and brilliant. His death was as sad as it was unnecessary.

After his death though, I always found it inappropriate when obituaries and memorials called him a reddit cofounder. He joined reddit as part of a merger and didn't stay on long before being let go. The original founders didn't consider him a cofounder, and until his death did not have the nicest things to say about him.

Personally I think there's better things to remember him by than that rather negative chapter. He created a lot of good outside reddit. Personally I still use RSS to this day, and am occasionally reminded by that of his story.


Snippets of one of my conversations with aaronsw way back when talking about the reason I wanted to help with Open Library:

    me: If it wasn't for my free city library growing up I would have 
        never gotten where I am today.
    aaronsw: Precisely. I got into it for the same reason you did.
He was a genuinely good truth seeker. I wish I had been smarter and better able to help him more when he needed it. Please support people like him and Alexandra Elbakyan and others who are persecuted for doing the right thing for the right reasons.

From personal experience, Prozac can act as a suicide deterrent given the right conditions. It’s not true for everyone, and perhaps not even for most people, but there is so much stigma against it.

Please, if you’re feeling anything along those lines, at least try some antidepressants. What have you got to lose? You have your whole life to gain.

I miss Aaron. I ended up using some code by him a couple months ago, which made me smile. It’s still the best library for the job, nearly a decade later.


Placebo controlled trials show that Prozac increases suicidal thoughts.

https://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i65

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3353604/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Antidepres...

Eli Lilly notoriously buried the evidence of this from their own trials.


Most antidepressants actually have it right there on the tin as a potential side effect.

Paradoxically, starting an antidepressant regimen can increase the odds of suicide for some people. The mechanism seems to be something like "doesn't completely cure your depression, but makes you un-depressed enough to actually act on suicidal ideation."

This is why any competent psychiatrist will pair getting started on antidepressants with an increase in vigilance of the patient.


Interesting. I wasn’t aware of this. Perhaps I got lucky, but the effect was immediate and life changing. I’ve never quite experienced anything like it, so I try to at least mention it.

Not really sure how to proceed knowing it can make the situation worse for some people though. Perhaps I’ll cite your comment in the future; thanks.


This is the issue with placebo controlled trials: the placebo effect is actually pretty damn useful. I don't mean to invalidate your experiences, and I don't doubt that without a placebo group the positive effect would be significant.

It's a sticky situation for sure. Maybe it's unethical to tell people this, knowing it will worsen their clinical outcomes? I think HN can handle it, but I probably wouldn't tell this to somebody irl who is struggling with mental health issues and considering antidepressants.


> "We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access." - The Guerrila Open Access Manifesto by Aaron Swartz: https://openbehavioralscience.org/manifesto

This article on WBUR's website hits the nail on the head:

The crux of it is that MIT refused to disavow any kind of trespassing charge.

(https://www.wbur.org/news/2013/01/15/swartz-attorney-ortiz)

For his deliberate mishandling of the Aaron Swartz case, as well as his cover-up of ballistic missile defense research misconduct at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and his personally signed thank-you note to an alleged member of organized crime like Jeffrey Epstein which was intended as a form of reputation laundering in exchange for millions of dollars in gifts that MIT received from not just Epstein directly but also from several of his billionaire friends who allegedly owed him a "favor" (some of whom now also stand accused of abusing underage girls on properties which were allegedly outfitted with surveillance cameras for blackmail purposes), perhaps it's time to revisit once again the call for Rafael Reif's resignation from his position as president of MIT:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2020/01/12/after-epstei...


I have thought of him several times lately. I keep coming across his work in one form or another - some typically excellent writing on his blog, a history of Markdown explaining his key contributions.

He made so many kinds of contributions. He was the Erdos of his generation.


Aaron could have accomplished so much more had he not succumbed to depression. His voice would be most welcome now as tech has entered a bitter political conflict. To anyone suffering from depression at this time: You are needed. Your voice is needed. Aaron's end was a net negative, too early and robbed all of us of a brilliant and brave young soul. Improve on Aaron's accomplishments by following his lead but persisting through tough times.

>succumbed to depression

Well, yeah, but he had perfectly valid external reasons to be extremely stressed and sad. He succumbed to the FBI ruining his life because they're mostly corrupt authoritarian assholes with their own agenda that has nothing to do with "justice" or even what the "wronged" in this case wanted.


[dead]


If we had all listened to Aaron none of this would have happened. He was for truth and education and equality and freedom. Too many people have been marginalized by the #ImaginaryPropertyRegime, left and right, and this was exactly one of the things Aaron was worried about and fighting against.

To some degree, this is on us as well - for our failing to hold a reasonable PotUS accountable for bad Gov behavior, in a meaningful consistent way.

I was thinking about this the other day. MIT is dead to me. Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann should be ashamed for the rest of their lives.

Neither suffered any consequences.

MIT is a big and complicated place, and you'd be throwing out some good, including people who are probably closer to Swartz in sentiment than our average dotcommer.

That sounds nice and all, but they have yet to issue a real mea culpa, although I think there was a "mistakes were made" noise later on. At some point, organizations have to accept accountability if they also want praise for their accomplishments. One without the other is a recipe for disaster.

Miss that guy a lot. When I was first starting out, I made a point to go and read his Raw Nerve series and it had a massive impact on my life: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/rawnerve.

One of those rare, brilliant lights in the world who left way, way, way too soon.


Indeed lost a child.

The thing which shocked me equally was Reddit removing him from the official "about us"[1] as a co founder. As if he never existed in Reddit's history.

1: https://www.redditinc.com/#section-4


At some risk of stepping into a controversy I have nothing to do with... Aaron was not an original co-founder, and when his company merged into Reddit (with a "co-founder" title as per agreement) every indication is that that arrangement didn't work out for anyone. So I don't blame Reddit for not including Aaron in the company history, as it wasn't his idea, he didn't start it nor grow it, and his presence apparently never "clicked" with the others.


I think about him from time to time and it still makes me incredibly sad.

Another (absolutely horrible) reminder that mental health is complex and almost invisible, "justice" seems to mean "money to lobby" more and more, and that the parasitical industry of academic publishing aims to gatekeep knowledge (that we paid for!) from those who are unable/unwilling to pay them again.

So read, learn, do, and don't forget the failings of the mental health system, justice system, and academic publishing industry.

And as a final question: How can we do better in each of these areas? What can be made to help out?


Reddit's Lisp to Python port used web.py written by Aaron: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/rewritingreddit

web.py source code - a framework in a single file: https://web.archive.org/web/20060106081029/http://webpy.org:...

RIP Aaron.


today people celebrate Aaron, at least when it comes to lip service. Back then though that "holier than thou" comment was at the top of HN response to Aaron asking for help

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4529609

The HN as well as wider community's change toward Aaron was noted by others as well: https://techcrunch.com/2013/01/14/aaron-swartz-asking-for-he...


Among all the many other things he did, he had a fantastic analysis of the end of Infinite Jest:

http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/ijend

Such a sad loss.


Nice to see Aaron Swartz' legacy live on in the recent recommendation of a former Department of Homeland Security director:

https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/07/31/universities...


Died? No. Murdered. Murdered by MIT and JSTOR

Can you point out what you think JSTOR did wrong?

Here's what it looked like from their end: https://docs.jstor.org/summary.html


Tweet thread on his death that was illuminating for me https://mobile.twitter.com/hides_minimally/status/1348704670...

Thanks for this reminder. Miss you Aaron.

I commented this recently on a similar post a few months ago, but it's relevant here (lightly edited for accuracy).

Even now you see comments in this thread pretending it was succumbing to depression rather than admit our responsibility and the immense pressure that was placed on him - supremely irritating.

###

I remember seeing later that his legal defense fund was posted here for help because the cost of the defense for a federal crime (even though he’d likely win) was 1.5M, and the first comment at the time was someone being nasty to him. (post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4529484 , comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4529609)

I remember the emails from MIT that showed the IT department going after him, and then when caught MIT choosing to do nothing rather than help.

Even JSTOR backed down rather than move forward.

It still makes me angry and MIT’s reputation was seriously harmed in my eyes because of it.

Journals blocking access to publicly funded research by extorting desperate academics for prestige is what’s wrong. It’s a broken system due to bad incentives that’s worse for everyone except the journals that enrich themselves on the back of publicly funded research, by locking it away and charging enormous rent.

The punishment was disproportionate to a crime that, while possibly illegal, was on the morally right side of a broken incentive structure. He didn’t even get the chance to put the articles up, he downloaded them from a network he had rightful access to. His main crime was leaving a laptop running in an open closet, and downloading more than they wanted.

Luckily Sci-Hub continued his work.

The legal thing and the right thing are often not the same: https://zalberico.com/essay/2020/06/13/zoom-in-china.html

Maybe the worst part was after his suicide reading comments here about how you can only blame the person who committed suicide since no one else is responsible for the ultimate act.

If you choose not to see a causal link between the pressure of this prosecution and his death, I think that says more about your own motivated reasoning than it does about reality.

This was a failure of our community.

###

On a meta note, one thing that bothered me about 'The Internet's Own Boy' were his interviews on Russia Today. He didn't understand the extent to which he was being used by foreign adversaries to push a narrative favorable to them. That doesn't mean his arguments are wrong, but they're in a quite misleading context. If you go on RT you should do it like Yascha Mounk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cucX1IO78lM

In hindsight, wikileaks was more an arm of Russian propaganda than Aaron understood.


Aaron inspired me so much with his clear ethos in his heart.

I could feel his pain in his blog writing so clearly, almost as if he could feel the pain of the whole world and it crushed him.


Aaron's writing were often thought provoking for me. I often feel I should do more advocacy for the most important causes in this world.

He was an important mind in our community. RIP.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25740259

https://twitter.com/hides_minimally/status/13487046708820377...

--

Aaron Swartz @aaronsw died by suicide eight years ago. He represents a kind of left-libertarian current that's lost among present technologists —our generation centers the debate on regulating the internet or, most radically, democratizing platforms.

After @aaronsw attempted to communize academic intellectual property, the state destroyed Aaron, while Bush administration officials, Wall Street, and British Petroleum executives walked with impunity.

And therefore, some have pointed out that, despite both MIT and JSTOR not wishing to press charges, the state slamming @aaronsw with 35 years in jail and $1M in fines was a prosecutorial overreach and a grotesque miscarriage of justice.

No,@aaronsw committed a transgression intolerable in capitalist society. The state brutalized him not on the basis of legal injustice but because what he did struck at the heart of our society and property relations. What he did was like the digital version of burning down Target

In a framework that is animated by capital, the state did the right thing: you can't just let people like @aaronsw vandalize and loot intellectual property. You have to go after him. If you don't, then there's nothing worth prosecuting.


A person with so much to live for and so much to accomplish; I don't believe he took his own life.

This hit me harder when it happened than now, but I was also in a weird relationship place back then, so some of those feelings got combined.

I didn't know it then, but didn't have as big of a role in founding reddit as people usually think, and his activism was so obviously illegal.


Wish you were here, RIP

Had never seen that quote from TBL. It's nice, but it falls real flat coming from the man that used his fame to push for DRM in browsers.

The DRM thing is complicated. Before you condemn a person who wrote something kind and thoughtful, if it helps you to reconsider: Tim Berners-Lee's recent work seems to be driven by ideas with which Aaron Swartz (based on his own work) might agree. (And there's the whole thing of him earlier choosing to sit out the Web gold rush billions, and instead focus on stewardship of this tech platform for the world to communicate, from a university position.)

RIP, you were a genius and pioneer

Really sad. Rest In Peace Aaron.

feels like yesterday! :'(

A true patriot.

"Thanks Obama!"

This was unfortunately one of the many casualties in the war the Obama DoJ raged on the country. It's unconscionable.


He didn't suicided. He was murdered by the overzealous prosecutor with her own personal agenda.

RIP Aaron. You will be missed forever and it is a loss for humanity.




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