Category Archives: Remembering Aaron

Brewster Kahle: Howl For Aaron Swartz

It’s never easy on January 11th. This year will be no exception.

Brewster Kahle recorded this in the Fall of 2015. Today is the first time it has been published.

Howl for Aaron Swartz

Written by Brewster Kahle, shortly after Aaron’s Death, on January 11, 2013.

Howl for Aaron Swartz
New ways to create culture
Smashed by lawsuits and bullying
Laws that paint most of us criminal

Inspiring young leaders
Sharing everything
Living open source lives
Inspiring communities selflessly

Organizing, preserving
Sharing, promoting
Then crushed by government
Crushed by politicians, for a modest fee
Crushed by corporate spreadsheet outsourced business development

New ways
New communities
Then infiltrated, baited
Set-up, arrested

Celebrating public spaces
Learning, trying, exploring
Targeted by corporate security snipers
Ending up in databases
Ending up in prison

Traps set by those that promised change
Surveillance, wide-eyes, watching everyone now
Government surveillance that cannot be discussed or questioned
Corporate surveillance that is accepted with a click

Terrorists here, Terrorists there
More guns in schools to promote more guns, business
Rendition, torture
Manning, solitary, power

Open minds
Open source
Open eyes
Open society

Public access to the public domain
Now closed out of our devices
Closed out of owning books
Hands off
Do not open
Criminal prosecution

Traps designed by the silicon wizards
With remarkable abilities to self-justify
Traps sprung by a generation
That vowed not to repeat
COINTELPRO and dirty tricks and Democratic National Conventions

Government-produced malware so sophisticated
That career engineers go home each night thinking what?
Saying what to their families and friends?

Debt for school
Debt for houses
Debt for life
Credit scores, treadmills, with chains

Inspiring and optimistic explorers navigating a sea of traps set by us
I see traps ensnare our inspiring generation
Leaders and discoverers finding new ways and getting crushed for it

Ortiz is Retiring – January 11 Approaching…

Be sure to tweet your January 11 events to us, so we can let everyone know about them.

Well, Carmen Ortiz is finally retiring:

From a Daily Beast article, that gets it about right (although it spells Aaron’s name wrong):

During her time in office, Ortiz came under fire for pursuing harsh charges in some high-profile cases, including that of internet activist Aaron Schwartz. Schwartz was accused of downloading free articles from an MIT archive, against terms of use. Ortiz’s office charged Schwartz with 13 felony accounts, which threatened up to 30 years in prison. Schwartz committed suicide before his trial. The incident prompted over 60,000 to accuse Ortiz of “overreach” and petition for her removal.

There is a rally going on at the Boston courthouse in memory of Aaron, from 3-6pm EST on the fourth anniversary of Aaron’s death, January 11, 2017.

Here’s more about Marty Gottesfeld, from ShadowProof’s Kevin Gosztola:

Wife Of Activist Jailed For Digital Sit-In Seeks Help From Trump

Dana and marty

 

From the article:

Gottesfeld was arrested in Miami in February last year and faces a conspiracy charge and charges of “intent to damage a protected computer,” which are offenses under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison and could pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution.

Carmen Ortiz, who zealously prosecuted Aaron Swartz until he committed suicide in 2013, is the federal prosecutor leading the effort to prosecute Gottesfeld.

“I’d like [Trump] to use his influence to get the charges dropped against Marty because of the nature of the whistleblowing, because Marty didn’t hurt anybody whereas the doctors at the hospital did hurt people and they’re not facing any charges,” Dana Gottesfeld, Marty’s wife, told Shadowproof in an interview.

She also would like Trump to support Justina’s Law, which she said is legislation that “would protect children that become wards of the state from medical testing that doesn’t benefit them.”

 

 

Chelsea Manning Reviews “The Boy Who Could Change The World”

boy_who_could_change_the_world_finalRemembering Aaron Swartz: My Review of “The Boy Who Could Change The World – By Chelsea Manning

From the review:

For me, reading this book was a revelatory experience. This compilation reminded me of when I read The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a teenager a number of years ago. Unlike Dr. King, I honestly never really knew just deep the brilliance and idealism of Aaron was until I read some of his lesser known and older pieces…

Throughout his writing, Aaron ceaselessly and confidently expresses his underlying ideology. At times, Aaron — being a young person throughout — is inconsistent and contradictory. However, at the root of it all, is his unwavering belief in the power of the people — especially the average citizen. He believes in the strength of the little guy. Aaron also prods us to create tools that make the world better for everyone, whether rich or poor…

I feel like the world abandoned Aaron in his time of need. I feel like the world — myself included — took Aaron for granted. He intelligently and thoughtfully challenged everything and everyone: software companies, corporations, multimedia conglomerates, governments, and even modern school systems! Yet, in his final challenge — we only stood on the sidelines and rooted for him, waiting for him to win again. Instead, he lost. Then, we lost.

Read the complete review here.

Brewster Kahle at Aaron Swartz San Francisco Memorial 2013

Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive, January 24, 2013
Brewster Kahle at the Internet Archive, January 24, 2013

From the San Francisco Aaron Swartz Memorial. January 24, 2013.

Brewster does a great job of explaining to us about Aaron’s “Open Source Life,” and how “bulk downloading” (although it got Aaron into trouble) is in itself, is not only “not a crime,” but a desirable action with outcomes that benefit the public.

He also sheds light on Aaron’s ongoing quests to make U.S. legal court documents (via PACER) and works in the Public Domain (via GoogleBooks) more publicly accessible (rather than locking both up  behind paywalls or with cumbersome downloading restrictions).

Brewster Kahle:

I learned from Aaron what living an Open Source life was like. I think he really did live that way. He floated and helped others. He gave everything away. He really wasn’t tied to an institution. He really was not a company man in any sense. He was really quite pure in his motivations, and it made him incredibly effective at cutting through a lot of the stuff that most of us deal with.

An open source life.

He was able to keep his self interests at bay, which is kind of remarkable for a lot of us. But he was able to do it. And he was able to communicate well with an open smile and a kind heart. He had a way of communicating with this energy on things that mattered and he had a genius at finding things that mattered to millions of people. There are lots of things to work on, but the things that he worked on were incredibly effective.

We first met, I think, in 2002 at the Eldred Supreme Court case in Washington DC, where we drove a Bookmobile Across, celebrating the Public Domain by giving away books that kids made, and also then at the Creative Commons Launch. But I really got to know Aaron when he said ‘I’d really like to help make the Open Library website with the Internet Archive’ to go and give books and integrate books into the Internet itself. And he said “I’ve got this cool technology, called “Infogami,” it really made it possible to make Reddit happen. Let’s use it again for this other thing.”

And it was wonderful to work with him, but it was really unlike working with anybody else I’ve ever met. You certainly couldn’t tell him what to do, he just kind of did what was the right thing to do, and he was right certainly a lot more often than I was. We also worked together in other areas, when he was a champion of open access, especially of the Public Domain. Bringing public access to the Public Domain.

Most people think that’s kind of an obvious thing. Doesn’t “the Public Domain” mean that it’s publicly accessible? Of course all of us say “No!” It’s sort of like there are these National Parks, with moats and walls and guns turrets sort of pointing out, in case someone wanted to come near the Public Domain. And Aaron didn’t think this was right. And he spent a lot of time and effort freeing these materials.

One of the first ones that we were actively working together on was freeing government court cases, so that anybody could see this without having to have special privilege or money, and also to make it so you could data mine it, and go and look at these things in a very different way. So he freed and liberated a lot of court cases from the PACER system, and uploaded them, in bulk, to the Internet Archive, so that people could have access to these. There are now 4 Million documents, from 800,000 cases that have been used by 6 million people, because of the project that Aaron Swartz and others helped start.

It was an interesting project because it went over many different organizations, each playing a role and all cooperating in a very non-corporate way. It was a very Aaron style way of making things happen. And the idea of making court documents and legal documents available more easily struck a chord with me because, in college, I was trying to figure out how I was gonna try to get out of the draft. And my college didn’t have a legal collection, and the only way that I could try to get to legal court documents was to get an ID from my professor and break in to the Harvard Law Library to go and read court documents. That sucked! It really makes no sense, and Aaron not only sort of saw that it doesn’t make sense. He decided he was going to try to help solve this. Not just for himself, but for everyone.

Then there was other Public Domain collections like the Google Books Collection. Google Books was a library project to go and digitize lots and lots of books. A lot of them were Public Domain. Google would make them available from their website, but really really painfully. It would make it so if you wanted one book, you could get one book. If you wanted 100 books, they would turn off your IP address forever. This is no way to have public access to the Public Domain, and the Internet Archive started getting these uploads of “Google Books.” Going faster, and faster, and faster. Like well, where are these coming from? Well it turns out it’s Aaron. He and a bunch of friends figured out that they could go and get a bunch of computers to go slowly enough to just clock through tons of Google Books and upload them to the Internet Archive. Interestingly, Google never got upset about it. The libraries, on the other hand, grumbled. Which is so… Well anyway. They’ll get over it.

So, when this started happening, we said “Ok. What’s going on? Should we be concerned?” The answer was “No, it’s Public Domain.” We just made sure that we got the cataloging data right, and we linked back to Google, so that if you’re on the book, you can go back to the original page and see the da da da da da. And it all worked well.

But there it was. Aaron doing it again; bringing access to the Public Domain.

What is crushing to me is that Aaron got ensnared by the Federal Government for doing something that the Internet Archive actively encourages others to do for our collections, and we think all libraries should encourage, which is: Bulk downloading to support data mining and other research using computers. This is just the way the world works.

The first step is for a computer to read and analyze materials is to download a set of documents. When Aaron did this from one library, JSTOR, they strongly objected, and demanded that MIT find and stop that user, which then led U.S. Prosecutors to pull out their worst techniques.

Did anybody stop to ask if bulk downloading is a crime? I say “No. Bulk downloading is not, in itself, a crime.” Let’s stop this practice of discouraging bulk downloading, because there are encouraging projects that are learning amazing new things by having computers be part of the research process. Let’s not stop this and discourage young people from coming up with new and different ways to learn things from our libraries.

What resulted, in this case, was tragic, and not necessary. Really, what we want is computers to be able to read. Aaron knew this. We’re all building this, and he got ensnared anyway. Let’s let our computers read.

Because of this tragedy, JSTOR, whom I talked to this morning, and the Internet Archive, have agreed to meet to discuss the broad issue of data mining and web crawling. I hope that we really make progress. At least there’s reasons to be positive.

This assault on Aaron would disillusion, discourage and depress any principled young man, and if there ever was a principled young man, it was Aaron Swartz.

We miss you, and we will carry on your important work.

Link to Brewster’s talk on video at archive.org

All Speakers, SF Memorial, at archive.org

Open Mic Portion of memorial (Includes John Perry Barlow and many other incredible talks)

The Boy Who Could Change The World – and the Book that changed Aaron’s Life

boy_who_could_change_the_world_finalI’ve been reading The Boy Who Could Change The World this weekend, although it’s probably an extra-emotional experience for me, due to the timing. It really is a wonderful collection of writings from Aaron’s curious and insightful mind.

Besides the content from Aaron’s blog, two longer, previously unpublished essays are included in the  “Politics” and “School” chapters of the book. These were found in the Safra Center archives.

The finished masterpiece was Edited by Jed Bickman at The New Press.

Benjamin Mako Hill and Seth Schoen edited the section on “Free Culture,” and wrote its introduction. Cory Doctorow edited and wrote an introduction for the “Media” section.

David Auerbach edited and wrote the introduction for the “Computers” section. David Segal and Henry Farrell edited “Politics.” (David did the introduction, Henry the postscript for the section.) James Grimmelmann edited and wrote and introduction for “Books and Culture. Astra Taylor edited and wrote an introduction for the “Unschool” section.

One excerpt that stood out to me was Aaron’s enthusiastic account of  The Book That Changed My Life. (The book being Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky.) Although the piece is titled “The Book That Changed My Life,” it turns out it was a film,  Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, that caused him to find and read the book.

From The Book That Changed My Life:

Each story, individually, can be dismissed as some weird oddity, like what I’d learned about the media focusing more on posters than on policy. But seeing them all together, you can’t help but begin to tease out the larger picture, to ask yourself what’s behind all these disparate things, and what that means for the way we see the world.

Events Going On Monday For This Year’s Sad Anniversary

Thoughtworks will be hosting a number of “Celebrating Aaron” events going on across the country to give people a place to gather, celebrate and learn more about Aaron and his legacy.

I’ll be at the San Francisco event at 6pm. See you there.

These events are also promoting the new book of Aaron’s writings titled “The Boy Who Could Change the World,” from The New Press.

From the Thoughtworks website:

In our offices all over the US, we’re honoring Aaron’s contributions to technology and society. Join us in a local office on Aaron Swartz Day for book giveaways, screenings of The Internet’s Own Boy, and discussion.

San Francisco
6-9PM | 814 Mission St., 5th Floor

Atlanta
6-9PM | 1175 Peachtree St. NE, Suite 1400 

Chicago
6-9PM | 200 E Randolph St, 25th Floor
*We will be selling copies of The Boy Who Could Change The World.  The suggested minimum is $20, with all proceeds being donated to Black Girls Code.  We have 25 copies of the book, and it will be first come first serve.  

Dallas
6-9PM | 15540 Spectrum Drive, Addison 

New York
6-9PM | 99 Madison Ave, 15th Floor

 

Jacob Appelbaum at Aaron Swartz Day 2015

Download mp4       Hi-res files of entire event
CC0

Jacob Appelbaum read a powerful statement at this year’s Aaron Swartz Day Celebration. I’m still processing everything he revealed to us that night.

Here are some highlights. A complete transcription follows.

Quotes From Jacob’s Talk:

Shortly after Aaron was found, WikiLeaks disclosed three facts:

  • Aaron assisted WikiLeaks.
  • Aaron communicated with Julian and others during 2010 and 2011.
  • And Aaron may have even been a source.

I do not believe that these issues are unrelated to Aaron’s persecution, and it is clear that the heavy-handed U.S. prosecution pushed Aaron to take his own life. How sad that he was abandoned by so many in his time of need. Is it really the case that there was no link? Is it really the case that the U.S. prosecutors went after Aaron so harshly because of a couple of Python scripts and some PDFs? No, clearly not…

When we learned more details about the U.S. prosecutors, we learned that they considered Aaron a dangerous radical for unspecified reasons. One of the primary reasons is probably the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. This is a good document, and, as many others, I respect it and I admire it. The Guerilla Open Access Manifesto is not as radical as the U.S. prosecutors might consider it. But their fear is telling, so let us say it out loud: We should honor it and we should extend it.

Let’s not only liberate the documents of the world, let us act in solidarity to liberate all of humanity. Let us create infrastructure that resists mass surveillance. Let us enable people to leak documents. And let us also work to infiltrate those organizations that betrayed us. There is a division of labor, and we all bring different skills to the table. Let us all use them in service of a better world, in service of justice.

We must have total transparency about the investigation into Aaron. Why was the Department of Justice grinding their axe with Aaron? Was it really because of JSTOR and the past anger about PACER? That is absurd and unbelievable. It is disproportionate and it is unjust.

One concrete thing that needs to happen is for the FOIA case to be properly resolved. We must find a way to speed up the processing about FOIAs regarding Aaron. Rather than hundreds of documents at a time, we should have all 85,000 at once, and not mediated by MIT, who is partially responsible for the outcome we have today.

And we must not drop the pressure. If you are invited to MIT, I encourage you to decline and to explain that you do so because of MIT’s treatment of Aaron Swartz. But not just Aaron, but those like Star Simpson and Bunnie, who MIT would’ve left to be like Aaron, if the cards had played a little differently…

And there is a legal lesson that we actually must learn in a very hard way, as many communities have learned it already, and it is one where the lawyers in the audience who represent me are already cringing from what I’ve said, but they’ll cringe harder next. We must resist grand juries. We must not bow down. We must band together. And together we can refuse to be isolated. We must resist it every step of the way, never giving them anything, ever, at all, when they wish to persecute us for our political beliefs. And if you feel there is no other choice, drag it out and make it public…

Part of what Aaron carried was an understanding that it wasn’t just that something needed to be done. He carried with him the idea that very specific things needed to happen, and for very good reasons, to benefit all of those alive and all of those yet to live. He cared deeply about free software, and he cared deeply about the free culture movement. He worked to advance many other issues. Let us carry on that work, whatever the cost, wherever they may take us.

***Complete Transcription Below***

Lisa: Ladies and Gentlemen, Jacob Appelbaum.

Jacob: First of all, thank you so very much for having me tonight. It’s actually really difficult that I can’t be there in person, and I wish that I could be. And, when Lisa asked me to speak tonight, I actually didn’t feel that I had something to say until I sat down and wrote a text. So, I’m just going to read you a text, and as a result I’m going to cover my camera because there’s nothing worse than watching someone read. So, as you can see there, it’s just a bright white light, and now I’m going to read you this text, and I hope that you can still hear me.

[Crowd chanting “We want Jake!”]

Jacob: (Laughing)

Lisa Rein: Jacob, come back on camera, please. Don’t do it, Jake.

Jacob: I’m sorry. It has to be this way. That’s how it has to be, I’m sorry, but here we go.

Lisa: It’s okay. No, no, no!

Jacob: You can’t fucking be serious. [laughing] Terrible.

Lisa: Jacob, please. Thank you. (Jesus Christ.)

Jacob: Look, I want to see all of you, too, but we don’t get what we want so I’m going to read you this text now.

The first time that I heard Aaron Swartz speak in person was at the Creative Commons release party in San Francisco.

Lisa: Jacob, we’re going to turn it [the podium laptop] around.

Jacob: I was working the door as a security guard, if you can believe that. I think it was in December of 2002. Meeting people in that seemingly weird world mutated life in a good way. Over the years, we crossed paths many times, be it discussions relating to CodeCon, to age limits, or free software, or the Creative Commons, or about crypto, or any other topic. Aaron was an insightful, hilarious, and awesome person.

Aaron and I worked on a few different overlapping projects and I very much respected him. Some of the topics that came up were light, but some were very heavy and very serious. The topic of WikiLeaks was important to both of us. In November of 2009, long before I was public about my work with WikiLeaks, I introduced Aaron to someone at WikiLeaks who shall remain unnamed. If we had a secure and easy way to communicate, if some sort of communication system had existed that had reduced or eliminated metadata, I probably could’ve done so without a trace. But we didn’t. You’re not the first to know, the FBI and the NSA already know.

Less than a year later, Aaron sent me an email that made it clear how he felt. That email in its entirety was straightforward and its lack of encryption was intentional. On July 10, 2010, he wrote, “Just FYI, let me know if there’s anything, ever, I can do to help WikiLeaks.” Did that email cast Aaron as an enemy of the state? Did Aaron worry?

2010 was an extremely rough year. The US government against everyone. The investigation of everyone associated with WikiLeaks stepped up. So many people in Boston were targeted that it was effectively impossible to find a lawyer without a conflict. Everyone was scared. A cold wave passed over everything, and it was followed by hardened hearts from many.

In February of 2011, a few of us were at a party in Boston hosted by danah boyd. Aaron and I walked a third person home. A third person who still wishes to remain unknown. The sense of paranoia was overwhelming, but prudent. The overbearing feeling of coming oppression was crushing for all three of us. All of us said that our days were numbered in some sense. Grand juries, looming indictments, threats, political blacklisting. None of us felt free to speak to one another about anything. One of those people, as I said, still wishes to remain unnamed. We walked through the city without crossing certain areas, because Aaron was worried about being near the properties that MIT owned.

When Aaron took his life, I remember being told by someone in San Francisco, and I didn’t understand. I literally did not understand who they meant or who it could be. It seemed impossible for me to connect the words that were coming out of their mouth with my memories.

Shortly after Aaron was found, WikiLeaks disclosed three facts:

  • Aaron assisted WikiLeaks.
  • Aaron communicated with Julian and others during 2010 and 2011.
  • And Aaron may have even been a source.

I do not believe that these issues are unrelated to Aaron’s persecution, and it is clear that the heavy-handed U.S. prosecution pushed Aaron to take his own life. How sad that he was abandoned by so many in his time of need. Is it really the case that there was no link? Is it really the case that the U.S. prosecutors went after Aaron so harshly because of a couple of Python scripts and some PDFs? No, clearly not.

I wish that Aaron had lived, as we all do. This was the year that brought us the summer of Snowden, and yet it felt like ten years of grief in a single one. It was the last time I spent any time in the U.S., and even now it feels like a distant memory, mostly bad memories. Especially the memory of learning about Aaron.

Only a few months later, in 2013, there was a New Year’s Eve toast with many of us who were being investigated, harassed, and targeted for our work, our associations with WikiLeaks, and for our political beliefs. It was me that stupidly, stupidly said, “We made it.” But I know it was Roger, and I remember it well, when he said, “Not all of us.” And he wasn’t speaking only about Aaron, but him too. And it was heartbreaking to remember, and it was telling of how to cope. How some try to forget, and we do forget, and that it is important to remember. Especially right then and especially right there. Just as it is here, and just as it is right now.

When we learned more details about the U.S. prosecutors, we learned that they considered Aaron a dangerous radical for unspecified reasons. One of the primary reasons is probably the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. This is a good document, and, as many others, I respect it and I admire it. The Guerilla Open Access Manifesto is not as radical as the U.S. prosecutors might consider it. But their fear is telling, so let us say it out loud: We should honor it and we should extend it.

Let’s not only liberate the documents of the world, let us act in solidarity to liberate all of humanity. Let us create infrastructure that resists mass surveillance. Let us enable people to leak documents. And let us also work to infiltrate those organizations that betrayed us. There is a division of labor, and we all bring different skills to the table. Let us all use them in service of a better world, in service of justice.

We must have total transparency about the investigation into Aaron. Why was the Department of Justice grinding their axe with Aaron? Was it really because of JSTOR and the past anger about PACER? That is absurd and unbelievable. It is disproportionate and it is unjust.

One concrete thing that needs to happen is for the FOIA case to be properly resolved. We must find a way to speed up the processing about FOIAs regarding Aaron. Rather than hundreds of documents at a time, we should have all 85,000 at once, and not mediated by MIT, who is partially responsible for the outcome we have today.

And we must not drop the pressure. If you are invited to MIT, I encourage you to decline and to explain that you do so because of MIT’s treatment of Aaron Swartz. But not just Aaron, but those like Star Simpson and Bunnie, who MIT would’ve left to be like Aaron, if the cards had played a little differently.

Here are some things you can do to support the legacy and spirit of Aaron. We can support the development of some of Aaron’s projects like SecureDrop. Kevin, Garrett, Micah, and others are carrying that torch. We can work with them. They’re still with us today. You can come and work with many people at the Tor Project on Tor Browser and Tor Messenger, and other software to be of use to disseminate and to push out information, important information to people that might have otherwise not happened without that software. And you can come and help us make free software for freedom, just as Aaron did.

And there are other projects that need assistance. OnionShare, Let’s Encrypt, GlobalLeaks, Pawn[?], Subgraph, Signal, the Transparency Toolkit, and many more.

But it isn’t just software. There are so many things that can be done. You can write to prisoners of conscience of Aaron’s generation, of my generation, of your generation. Do Jeremy Hammond, Barret Brown, and Chelsea Manning have to die before we work to correct the injustices that they face daily? We can and we should free them.

Here are some things to support each other during the hard times, those with us now and those sure to come in the future. We should support WikiLeaks, an organization under attack for publishing information in the public interest. We should support the EFF. They support people who are at the edge. We should support the ACLU. When others called Edward Snowden a traitor, the ACLU gave him legal support. We should support the Courage Foundation. They are the ones that helped Edward Snowden to seek and to receive asylum and do the same with others that are directly under threat today and those under threat tomorrow. And we should support the Library Freedom Project. They work to educate, to deploy, and to resist, by deploying alternatives in public spaces for everyone today. And together, we are already building, deploying, supporting, and using infrastructure which is not merely a matter of protest, but is an act of resistance in itself, by being a practical alternative.

And there is a legal lesson that we actually must learn in a very hard way, as many communities have learned it already, and it is one where the lawyers in the audience who represent me are already cringing from what I’ve said, but they’ll cringe harder next. We must resist grand juries. We must not bow down. We must band together. And together we can refuse to be isolated. We must resist it every step of the way, never giving them anything, ever, at all, when they wish to persecute us for our political beliefs. And if you feel there is no other choice, drag it out and make it public.

Consider that the core of Aaron’s legacy is not simply about information or about writing software. It is about justice, about fairness, through transparency, through accountability, through consideration. So then let us consider our empire and most of all we must consider our complicity. It is up to us to act and to change things, to fight for the user, but also to consider the world in which he lives. To think as technologists, but to think far beyond only the technology and into our common humanity.

How is this lesson applied to gender and racial inequality? Aaron wasn’t a bigot; he was thoughtful. He was not a homophobic person; he was accepting. He wasn’t a racist; he was unprejudiced. Aaron was kind and compassionate. He fought for free speech. He worked and he supported your anonymity directly with actions, and he worked to free our culture’s knowledge. We must be forward-thinking, not just about winning one or two battles. Not just about one or two legal cases. Rather in a broader sense, towards a movement of movements. The Internet is a terrain of struggle and it will help shape all of the other terrains of struggles to come, and Aaron, Aaron helped to shape that terrain for us, so that we could shape it for others.

Part of what Aaron carried was an understanding that it wasn’t just that something needed to be done. He carried with him the idea that very specific things needed to happen, and for very good reasons, to benefit all of those alive and all of those yet to live. He cared deeply about free software, and he cared deeply about the free culture movement. He worked to advance many other issues. Let us carry on that work, whatever the cost, wherever they may take us.

Aaron was headstrong and hilarious. He was young. Today, he would’ve been 29. Use your time wisely. May you have more time than him, and may you use it as wisely as he did.

Good night.

Ben Wikler Remembers Aaron Swartz

Hi, I’m Ben Wikler. I was a close friend of Aaron’s.

Aaron was somebody who had enormously wide-ranging interests and was dedicated to making as big a difference in the world as he possibly could. That’s what he loved to do.

When he downloaded articles, some people describe it as his great act of civil disobedience, and I don’t think he saw it that way at all.

This wasn’t the fight of his life, it was only the fight of his death.

The fight of his life is still unfinished. It’s the big project of making the world a just and safe and fair place for everyone.

*Clip above from the November 8, 2014 television broadcast of “The Internet’s Own Boy,” on PivotTV.

Lisa Rein’s Opening Remarks At Aaron Swartz Day at the Internet Archive

Link to video herelisarein.

Thank you everyone for coming. We have a lot of material to cover tonight, and then a whole movie to watch afterwards, so I will keep my opening remarks brief and to the point.

This year’s event’s theme is “setting the record straight” so that we can move forward. To me, this means providing a better understanding of Aaron’s actions, and how the entire situation became a misunderstanding of epic proportions that pretty much spiraled out of control.

There are a few initiatives underway designed to prevent this from ever happening again, and aimed at protecting innovators, such as Aaron, from relentless prosecution by third parties that don’t understand the nuances of the parties involved. We’ll hear from the EFF’s April Glaser, who will tell us about the upcoming Freedom to Innovate conference, which is designed to protect future student innovators from legal prosecution that victimized Aaron.

Through a combination of learning more about Aaron’s case, which we are going to do tonight, and having access to things like Aaron’s FBI and Secret Service files, which we are beginning to be released to us little by little, thanks to Kevin Poulsen’s Freedom of Information Act requests – can we begin the process of fully understanding what happened to Aaron, so that we can be sure to try to stop it from happening to anyone else.

Cindy Cohn, soon to be the EFF’s new Executive Director, will explain to us why CFAA reform is firmly stalled in both houses. (Probably now more than ever.) Finally, Dan Purcell, from what was Aaron’s new legal team, is here tonight to help us understand what their strategy was going to be for clearing his name at trial.

2013 and 2014 were big year’s for many of Aaron’s projects and ideas. He received a posthumous EFF Pioneer Award in 2013, and was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame as well that year, on the same night as Vint Cerf and John Perry Barlow. Aaron surely would have been pleased to be in such distinguished company.

I think he would also be pleased to see his DeadDrop prototype blossom into the SecureDrop whistleblowing submission platform that now has 15 instances in full swing, protecting leakers from our government’s spying eyes, and enabling submissions to prestigious news organizations such as The Guardian, The Washington Post, the New Yorker, and Forbes. I also think he would’ve been proud to see his mentor Lawrence Lessig and his MAYDAY PAC team raise over 10 million dollars to fund congressional candidates committed to fundamental campaign finance reform. Remember, Aaron is the one who challenged Lessig to set out on his new course, way back in 2007.

So join us tonight, along with hackathoners in 12 16 cities around the world, as we celebrate Aaron, set the record straight about not only what he did not do, but about what was done to him, and try to find a way to move forward together, and continue to make the world a better place. Thank you.

John Perry Barlow Recalls A 12 year-old Aaron Swartz

EFF and Freedom of the Press co-founder John Perry Barlow will be appearing with Freedom of the Press co-founder and executive director Trevor Timm, and Brian Knappenberger, Director of “The Internet’s Own Boy,” for a Q & A with the audience at tonight’s Aaron Swartz Day celebration.

aaron and john

Although you often see John Perry Barlow sitting behind Aaron in the famous photograph by Daniel J. Sieradski, above, the two of them never actually met each other.

From John Perry on November 8th: “Correction! Aaron and I met and met heavily… But primarily on that one day. We were casual friends later but I think he never got over the initial awe enough to relax and really tell me what happened that day. But he did tell his father.”

John Perry walked up to the front of the room at the very beginning of the “open mic” segment at the end of Aaron’s San Francisco memorial, and explained that they had actually met before, sort-of, many years earlier, when  John Perry came to talk to his school one day, whe Aaron was 11 or 12 years old.

When John Perry ran into Aaron’s father, Robert Swartz, after he had accepted Aaron’s Internet Hall of Fame award last year, he asked if he thought he’d had made an impression on Aaron that day?

Robert replied that he most certainly had.

The rest, as they say, is history.

John Perry Barlow’s speech during “open mic” portion of the San Francisco Memorial, January 24, 2013:

Aaron Swartz was the embodiment and apotheosis of everything that I’ve stood for for the last 25 years, and it is paradoxical that even though that was true, and even though he was profoundly involved with most of my best friends and greatest heroes, I spent almost all the time that I ever spent with him, one afternoon in, I think, 1996, when he really was a very little kid.

I’d been asked by the headmaster of Northshore Country Day to come and speak to the middle school, and, for some reason, there was this 10 or 11 year old that was in among the middle schoolers. And I spent the afternoon – this was a time when, I don’t think there were that many people who felt the way I did about this stuff. Most of them are in this room now. And I was promoting the idea that we could make a world where anybody anywhere could give his thirst for knowledge and his curiosity everything that it wanted to know. And *anybody* could know as much as any human being knew about any thing, in the future. He didn’t say much. He was extremely memorable, however. He was much younger. He was all eyes, and mind, and…spiritual radiance, in a way. And I scarcely saw him again.

But years later… Last year, at one point, when I was with a bunch of copyright barons in Paris at the EG8, and they were all talking about how enforcement and education was gonna come out right, and it was gonna be just like the War on some Drugs. And I happened to be on a panel with these guys. I said “you know, you think you’ve won this thing, or you will win this thing. But the truth is that you’ve turned a whole generation into an electronic Hezbollah. And you will be dead when they are alive. And I was thinking of Aaron Swartz and it’s really very difficult for me to see that he is dead, and they are alive. But he is not dead, and they will be.