HackNight : In Memory of Aaron Swartz

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HackNight Poster

Mozilla Kerala in association with Swathanthra Malayalam Computing organized a Hacknight over IRC. The HackNight had a participation of approximately 50 supporters of Aaron Swartz & the Open Web. The HackNight spanned from 8:30PM on January 11, 2014 upto around 8:30AM on January 12, 2014.

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz during a Creative Commons event

Aaron Hillel Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was a brilliant American computer programmer, technologist, Internet activist(hactivist) and lots more. He revolutionized the Internet and fearlessly defended our freedom, taking on some of the world’s biggest institutions. Aaron had a unique ability to use technology to empower people, democratize access to information, and organize movements. One year following Aaron’s death, we still continue to mourn his loss and celebrate his life.

Swartz was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the organization Creative Commons, and the social news site, Reddit, in which he became a partner after its merger with his company, Infogami where he released as free software the web framework he developed, web.py.

Swartz’s later work focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism. He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism. In 2010 he became a research fellow at Harvard University’s Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig.

Aaron Swartz is the founder of Demand Progress, which launched the campaign against the Internet censorship bills (SOPA/PIPA) and now has over a million members which threatened to have far reaching unintended consequences.

Aaron Swartz at Boston

Aaron Swartz at Boston

And what got him into trouble with the law was when he turned into a “data liberator”, first with Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) and then with scholarly articles from JSTOR. In 2002, Swartz had stated that when he died he wanted all the contents of his hard drives made publicly available. A long-time supporter of Open Access, Swartz wrote in his Open Access Guerilla Manifesto:
“The world’s entire scientific … heritage … is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations….
The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it.”
In 2007, he led the development of the non-profit Open Library, an ambitious project to collect information about every book ever published.

But On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, after systematically downloading academic journal articles from JSTOR. Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 50 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release.

Two years later, two days after the prosecution denied his lawyer’s second offer of a plea bargain, on the evening of January 11, 2013, Swartz committed suicide and was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment by his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman.
Swartz’s family and his partner created a memorial website on which they issued a statement, saying, “He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place.”

In June 2013, Swartz was posthumously inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Supporters of Swartz responded to news of his death with an effort called #PDFTribute to promote Open Access.

Aaron Swartz may be gone, but his work in making the world a better place should not die with him. We need to honour Aaron’s legacy by redoubling our commitment to the struggle for an Open Web and more just and equitable world by upholding Aaron’s ideals and fighting spirit.

Swartz Quote

Tribute to the Legend

Aaron’s first death anniversary was celebrated in different parts of the world in various ways to honor the prodigy. The world-renowned group of hackers called “Anonymous” hacked the MIT website and defaced it with a message :

MIT Website Defaced

Defaced MIT Website on January 11, 2014

The website RememberAaronSw was set-up to remember the legend forever.
Marking the first anniversary of the legend TheDayWeFightBack.org was setup. Other parts of the world commemorated the legend in their own ways. Some conducted rallies, others seminars, etc.

TechnoGeeks – a facebook community of technology enthusiasts TechnoGeeksIndia organized an online candlelight vigil with a virtual candle to light to support the Open Web, Open Access and the true TechnoGeek : Aaron Swartz. The campaign, which began on Saturday, is continuing with more and more people joining it in support of cyber freedom.

And in Kerala, a few supporters of Aaron Swartz joined together on the night of January 11, 2014 to hack and pay tribute to the legend. Under the banner of Swathanthra Malayalam Computing & Mozilla Kerala, the HackNight saw a participation of 100 volunteers from all over the state that joined online to accomplish a common goal – hack through the night. Popular hacks included the translation of Swartz’ Open Access Guerilla Manifesto into the native language Malayalam | മലയാളം. We found passion, enthusiasm and spirit flowing through the veins of the developers hacking through the night in tribute to the legend Aaron Swartz.

Long live Open Web! Long live Open Access! #PDFTribute