Even as the web-word tries to come to terms with Internet activist Aaron Swartz’ death, hacktivist group Anonymous has wasted no time to hack into two of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) websites to turn it into a tribute to Swartz.

Websites belonging to MIT, cogen.mit.edu and rledev.mit.edu, were hacked into on Monday morning (IST) to display a red upon black text that condemned the US government’s prosecution of Swartz for attempting to encourage public access of scientific papers.

In a statement on PasteBin, Anonymous wrote, “Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for – freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it – enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing – an ideal that we should all support.”

Activist Aaron Swartz, dead at 26 (Image Credits: Slashgear.com)

Activist Aaron Swartz, dead at 26 (Image Credits: Slashgear.com)

Anonymous continued, “Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of U.S. computer crime laws, particularly their punishment regimes, and the highly-questionable justice of pre-trial bargaining. Aaron's act was undoubtedly political activism; it had tragic consequences.”

Besides actively striving to make information over the net accessible, Swartz was also a prodigious programmer who helped establish the RSS standard at the age of 14. He also went on to play a significant part in building Reddit.

Swartz and the non-profit group he founded, DemandProgress had played a huge role in blocking the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act in the United States that was introduced in the House of Representatives in 2011. The bill, which was finally withdrawn amid public pressure, would have allowed court orders to curb access to certain websites deemed to be engaging in illegal sharing of intellectual property. Swartz and other activists objected on the grounds it would give the government too many broad powers to censor and squelch legitimate Web communication. 

The message left behind by Anonymous

Anonymous hacks into MIT

Swartz had had a run in with the law in July 2011, when he was indicted by a federal grand jury of wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges related to allegedly stealing millions of academic articles and journals from a digital archive at the MIT. Swartz pleaded not guilty on all counts and faced 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

After Swartz hung himself last week, his family said in a statement that decisions by officials in the Massachusett’s US Attorney’s Office and MIT had contributed to his death. MIT’s president has committed to an investigation into the university’s role in the case.

Anonymous has not squarely blamed MIT for Swartz’ death; the group apologised for breaking into the Institute’s website for this ‘temporary use’. Instead, the group urged to “all those feel heavy-hearted in their proximity to this awful loss to acknowledge instead the responsibility they have — that we all have — to build and safeguard a future that would make Aaron proud, and honour the ideals and dedication that burnt so brightly within him by embodying them in thought and word and action.” 

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