Remembering Aaron Swartz’s Legacy
Activists, academics, and artists all hope to honor his life through change.
This past Saturday marked the one year anniversary of Aaron Swartz’s death, and while some commemorated the life of the internet activist by hacking an MIT website, others have looked to the anniversary as a call to arms. Like so much of Aaron Swartz’s life, his political activism was multifaceted, and the sheer scope of the protests and political acts being done in his name is a testament to his influence and the many people he touched. Here’s a look at how some of those close to Aaron are trying to honor his legacy.
On Saturday, Larry Lessig, a Harvard Law professor and close friend of Aaron’s, began a week-long walk across New Hampshire, which he’s dubbed The New Hampshire Rebellion. In a reference to the cross-country walk that activist Granny D undertook to draw attention to campaign finance reform, Lessig’s 200-mile walk aims to raise awareness about corruption in Washington, and his destination is Dixville Notch, the town where the first ballots will be cast in the 2016 presidential election. Today is day three of the walk, which you can follow on Twitter at @nhrebellion.
Last year, in the months following Swartz’s death, Texas Senator John Cornyn held a Judiciary committee hearing in which he asked Attorney General Eric Holder whether the Department of Justice was in the right as they investigated Swartz’s case. At the time, Holder said that he believed it was a “good use of prosecutorial discretion.” Last Friday, Cornyn and seven other legislators submitted a letter to Holder following up on the original hearing. “In March, you testified that Mr. Swartz’s case was a good use of ‘prosecutorial discretion,'” they wrote in the letter, embedded below. “We respectfully disagree.” The lawmakers cite several findings in the MIT report as troubling, among them that Stephen Heymann, the lead prosecutor, saw Swartz’s activism as cause for scaling up the superseding indictment, and felt that his flip comments comparing MIT to a rape victim were unprofessional and may have “infected the prosecution in general.”
Filmmaker Brian Knappenberger’s documentary about Aaron Swartz, The Internet’s Own Boy, will be showing at the Sundance Film Festival next week. To promote both the film and an upcoming protest, Knappenberger released a re-cut trailer (seen below) that questions the government’s mass surveillance techniques. The protest, dubbed The Day We Fight Back, is scheduled for February 11, and will involved online entities such as Access, Demand Progress, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Free Press, The Other 98%, BoingBoing, Mozilla, Reddit, and ThoughtWorks. There’s no word yet as to whether these sites will go dark, as they did when Swartz was leading the Stop SOPA/PIPA protests back in 2011. “Today the greatest threat to a free Internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency’s mass spying regime,” said David Segal, who cofounded Demand Progress with Swartz, in a statement announcing the protest. “If Aaron were alive he’d be on the front lines, fighting back against these practices that undermine our ability to engage with each other as genuinely free human beings.”