The pointless MIT Aaron Swartz report.

:Rolling eyes: I know that I’m in the minority on this one, but why was this report even necessary?

A long-awaited report released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the university made mistakes but engaged in no wrongdoing in the case of Aaron Swartz, a renowned programmer and charismatic technology activist who committed suicide in January while facing a federal trial on charges of hacking into the M.I.T. computer network.

M.I.T. did not urge federal law enforcement officials to prosecute Mr. Swartz, the report found, and remained neutral in the case. But the university “missed an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership that we pride ourselves on,” based on its reputation as an institution known “for promoting open access to online information, and for dealing wisely with the risks of computer abuse.”

Continue reading The pointless MIT Aaron Swartz report.

A very contrarian view of Aaron Swartz that will do me no favors.

Sorry for that.  But I read this New Yorker piece about Aaron Swartz (short version: was being prosecuted by the government for illegally downloading JSTOR archives; recently committed suicide), and this is the narrative that I take from it:

Once upon a time there was a very bright, but easily bored boy who spent his entire life not having to do anything that he didn’t want to do, and being encouraged in this by everybody that knew and loved him.  The boy became a man with no discipline and no unifying principle to his life; he made a lot of money, but did not know what to do with it; or, indeed, anything at all.  So he heedlessly did anything and everything that came to mind, with no thought to completion, or consequences.  Eventually the boy did something that was against the law; and then the government – who did not know and love him, and either did not realize that he was still a boy, or did not care – came down upon the man like a ton of bricks.  And eventually the boy decided that his life was not worth living, so he ended it.

Continue reading A very contrarian view of Aaron Swartz that will do me no favors.

Cato’s Timothy Lee’s conflict of interest with regard to Aaron Swartz?

So, let’s walk through this interesting defense-via-faint-damnation of Aaron Swartz by Timothy B Lee.

  • Timothy B. Lee’s article, summed up, is as followsAaron Swartz was right to hack into JSTOR and take all those articles without paying for them, but he went about being right very, very stupidly by physically breaking into things while stealing downloading other people’s articles. [Somebody on Twitter made the objection that double-quotes suggest a direct quote, instead of me just summing up Lee in a mean and vicious manner.  Being magnanimous in victory and all that, I’ll be nice and ‘fix’ it. – ML]  This is a standard telecommie (one of my readers at prefers ‘infosocialist,’ which works too) defense; which is… interesting.
  • Well, who is Timothy B. Lee?  Well, his Forbes profile says that, among other things, he’s an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.
  • And when you go over to Timothy Lee’s Cato Institute profile, it notes there (but not on his website’s disclosure statement) that Lee “was the co-author of RECAP, a software project that promotes public access to federal court records.” Continue reading Cato’s Timothy Lee’s conflict of interest with regard to Aaron Swartz?

Telecommie* Aaron Swartz’s federal indictment (and unpersoning by Larry Lessig).

The formal indictment of PCCC/Reddit** co-founder (and Demand Progress Executive Director) Aaron Swartz is available [link fixed], and you will find it compelling reading, if only because it shows the level of stubborn disregard for other people’s property and needs that can be exhibited by a telecommie geek who is simultaneously convinced of the rightness of his cause, and not especially overburdened with a sense of conventional ethics.  Essentially, if this indictment is correct, then Swartz physically broke into MIT’s computer network, inserted a virgin laptop into that system, deliberately spoofed the network into believing that the laptop represented a legitimate (guest***) user of MIT’s JSTOR online journal database account, immediately began massive downloads of JSTOR data in flagrant violation of JSTOR and MIT policies, spent several months playing steadily-increasing games of digital cat-and-mouse with MIT’s anti-piracy forces, then attempted to retrieve the physical evidence for all of this while trying to disguise his identity.  The indictment lists several occasions where Swartz’s behavior hindered the ability of legitimate MIT users to access JSTOR, and at least one where MIT users were outright prohibited from accessing JSTOR at all.

Lastly, please note this passage from a Boston Globe article on the crime.

Swartz allies claim the prosecution was launched over the objections of JSTOR.

“That is not the case,’’ said Heide McGregor, vice president of marketing and communications for JSTOR. “We were interested always in making sure the data was secure and the data was not disseminated. So we were happy we got to that result.”

Continue reading Telecommie* Aaron Swartz’s federal indictment (and unpersoning by Larry Lessig).