Truthdig on Aaron Swartz Day: A Vital Legacy Lives On

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel J. Sieradski CC BY-SA
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel J. Sieradski CC BY-SA

Aaron Swartz Day:  A Vital Legacy     Lives On

By Thor Benson for Truthdig.

From the Article:

Swartz would have been 28 years this week, on Nov. 8. To celebrate his life and legacy, communities across the globe will observe Aaron Swartz Day on his birthday. He fought for an open and thriving Internet but also for causes like ending corruption and government secrecy, and the day in his honor will mark the full range of his accomplishments and his battles, which remain alive today.

Swartz was adamantly opposed to laws like SOPA and PIPA that he believed would have allowed corporations to shut down free expression and frustrate an open Internet. What many don’t realize is that he also feared government surveillance, well before Snowden arrived. “One thing that Aaron didn’t see—is he didn’t see Snowden,” Brian Knappenberger, director of a documentary about Swartz’s life called “The Internet’s Own Boy,” told Truthdig. “We have footage in the film that talked about Aaron being concerned about NSA surveillance and overreach that was a year before Snowden came forward.”

Knappenberger said Swartz was waiting for a moment when people would realize how serious a problem government surveillance was becoming, and he died before he could witness the Snowden revelations. Instead of learning from what happened to Swartz and being more lenient with Internet activists, “lawmakers in the government just get worse about whistle-blowers and hacktivists by going after them even stronger,” Knappenberger said.

Knappenberger worries when he sees the Obama administration creating “insider threat” programs that encourage people with top-secret clearance to turn in co-workers who they believe might leak information. Sometimes, a recent divorce can be considered a reason for the government to suspect that an employee might leak information. Knappenberger said the U.S. government is targeting legal whistle-blowing instead of dealing with illegal activity such as warrantless surveillance being carried out by its branches.