Until Sunday, the voice of the loose-knit hacking collective Anonymous was missing from the chorus mourning Reddit co-founder and internet activist Aaron Swartz. But on Sunday night, the group finally made itself heard in typical fashion, disrupting MIT’s online presence with a denial of service attack and converting two of the university’s websites into memorials calling for reforms to computer crime laws, intellectual property, and copyright laws.
The DoS, a favorite Anonymous tactic, knocked many of MIT’s websites, including the main MIT.edu page, offline for several hours on Sunday, while on campus, “users of MIT’s network lost access to most websites,” MIT’s The Tech reports. The two sites that have been converted to memorials to Swartz, cogen.mit.edu and rledev.mit.edu, call for his death to inspire legal change and be a basis for “renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet.” They stop short of faulting MIT, writing, “we do not consign blame or responsibility upon MIT for what has happened.” At some point, MIT will probably take those memorial sites down, so if you want the full text, it’s available at Gizmodo.
The university itself has already announced it would investigate its role in the prosecution of Swartz, who was not a student but was accused of using the university’s computers to download articles from the subscription-only academic publication service JSTOR, apparently with the intent to distribute them. “I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took,” university president L. Rafael Reif wrote. It would be good if somebody could learn something from all this.