MIT released an investigation report regarding the circumstances surrounding Aaron Swartz’ death earlier today. The report, commissioned by MIT, concluded the school committed ‘no wrongdoing.’
Aaron Swartz was a widely celebrated internet activist and computer programmer who, by the age of 14 had already helped to author the web feed format RSS. He was also involved in organization of Creative Commons and the website framework web.py. He was a fellow at Harvard and an equal partner in Reddit. His activism led him to found the site Demand Progress, to speak out against SOPA, and to advocate for more open source information.
In January 2011, Swartz’ ‘hacktivism’ led to his arrest by MIT police for breaking-and-entering charges. Federal prosecutors charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This amounts to a maximum of $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. He had been found out for illegal downloading academic articles from JSTOR.org.
Two years later, Swartz was founded dead in his Brooklyn apartment. He had hanged himself. He was just 26 years old.
According to the internal report, MIT did not commit any wrongdoing in its handling of Swartz’ case. The report does site, however, concerns over the U.S. Federal Attorneys’ office for, “pursuing an overtly aggressive prosecution.”
Yet according to Rafael Reif, the President of MIT, "We did not seek federal prosecution, punishment or jail time, and we did not oppose a plea bargain.” On the other hand, Reif was not president of MIT at the time of Swartz’ arrest and therefore not privy to that type of information.
The report does, at one point, shoulder some responsibility in the wake of Swartz’ death, "MIT missed an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership that we pride ourselves on.”
Sources: Boston Herald