Stream of Cosmic Consciousness:

A Message from Demand Progress on the Death of Aaron Swartz

   Fri, January 18, 2013 - 9:38 PM
DEMAND JUSTICE FOR AARON
demandprogress.org/

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Demand Progress’s Aaron Swartz. Friends and family have issued a statement and created a memorial page, here.
rememberaaronsw.tumblr.com/

Aaron was a dear friend, and an ideological brother in arms. As others have spoken to at great length, he was indeed a passionate advocate for access to information and for a free and open Internet. He believed in these things for their own sakes, but moreover as means towards the even deeper end of building a world defined by social and economic justice. He resisted the impulse to presume that he alone was responsible for his brilliance or should benefit therefrom, and he wasn’t a techno-utopian: He was a communitarian, somebody who was deeply aware of our world’s injustices and who understood the constant struggle that is necessary to even begin to remedy them. That’s why this organization exists.

We’ve worked closely with Aaron over the last two or three years, but have not known him for as long as have some others who’ve written profoundly moving tributes to him and his life’s work. We met him as a genius, but not as the boy-genius that Larry and Cory and many others knew, and we would suggest reading their pieces (below) for deeper insight into his personal and professional evolution. We first encountered Aaron through our executive director’s unsuccessful run for Congress in 2010. Aaron became a fixture in the campaign office, rigging up cheap ways to do polling and robo-calls and helping give the uphill effort a fighting chance. But it was never about just one campaign: He was honing skills and tools he wanted to use to build capacity for much broader social movements that would create fundamental, structural change. He’d taken to calling himself an “applied sociologist.” He was trying to hack the world, and we were happy to help in what small ways we could.

That campaign work quickly transitioned into Demand Progress and Aaron’s conception of the initial petition in opposition to the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act, and then the ensuing 18 months of activism that helped bring down SOPA and PIPA. There are so many stories to tell about that effort: trudging around the halls of the Capitol, getting under the skin of intransigent senators, generally scrapping away as we struggled to build a movement against all odds. Many of them are best told by Aaron himself, here. www.youtube.com/watch But Aaron’s legal troubles began approximately commensurate with the launch of that anti-COICA petition, and it was clear that his persecution by an institutionally corrupted criminal justice system weighed heavily on him throughout the last two years, and certainly more so of late.

We are working with Aaron’s friends, family, and colleagues to determine how best to pay tribute to him — it will surely entail engaging in political activism in service of making this world a more just one. We will be in touch with our members and the general public in the near future to offer suggestions about ways to move forward. Tragically, we’ll have to continue to stifle the visceral impulse to run our half-formed ideas by Aaron, to help us make them better ones.

Click here if you’d like to receive updates from us.

In the meantime, Aaron had deep respect for GiveWell. Those seeking to donate in his name might consider giving to the charities they recommend.

A handful of the myriad tributes to Aaron:
Cory Doctorow
Glenn Greenwald
Lawrence Lessig
Quinn Norton

CLICK HERE TO DEMAND JUSTICE FOR AARON
act.demandprogress.org/letter...ustice/


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NOTE TO MY LAWMAKERS:
Subject: Justice for Aaron Aaron's death was tragic -- and unnecessary. Please help us make sure something like this never happens again by: 1) Support and cosponsor Aaron's Law and further amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to make sure nobody's prosecuted for victimless alleged crimes. 2) Supporting an inquiry into Aaron's case and other abusive prosecutions -- and punish all wrongdoing.

We do not share your email address without your permission. We will send you updates on this and other important campaigns by email. If at any time you would like to unsubscribe from our email list, you may do so.
Demand justice for Aaron: Support "Aaron's Law" and inquiry into his prosecution

Add your name at right to support "Aaron's Law" and further amendments to the statute under which he was and indicted -- and to also support a Congressional inquiry into his abusive prosecution.
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LETTER ISSUED BY DEMAND PROGRESS AND HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR LAWRENCE LESSIG:

We spent Tuesday burying and mourning our friend Aaron. We're sad, we're tired, we're frustrated -- and we're angry at a system that let this happen to Aaron. Now we want to set upon honoring his life's work and helping to make sure that such a travesty is never repeated.

We and Aaron's friends and family have been in touch with lawmakers to ask for help, and several of them -- who've worked with Aaron and Demand Progress on SOPA and other issues -- are beginning to take action. We're asking them to help rein in a criminal justice system run amok. Authorities are encouraged to bring frivolous charges and hold decades of jail time over the heads of people who are accused of committing victimless crimes.

1) Representative Zoe Lofgren has introduced what's been named "Aaron's Law." It would fix a key part of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is one of the statutes under which Aaron was indicted. We need to pass Aaron's Law AND further amend the CFAA.

The CFAA makes violations of a website's terms of service agreement or user agreement -- that fine print you never read before you check the box next to it -- a FELONY, potentially punishable by many years in prison. That's how over-broad this dangerous statute is, and one way it lets showboating prosecutors file charges against people who've done nothing wrong.

Aaron's Law would decriminalize violating these agreements: They're essentially contracts, and as with other contracts, disputes about them should be settled in civil courts rather than in out of control criminal trials under threat of decades of prison time.As currently written, Aaron's Law alone wouldn't have saved Aaron -- there is still more to do to make sure that victimless computer activities are not charged as felonies -- but this is a solid start that we can pass now and it's a law he wanted to change. Then we'll keep pushing forward.

2) Additionally, we asked Congressman Darrell Issa -- who controls the powerful Oversight Committee -- to open an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct in Aaron's case. Amazingly, he's already responded and is dispatching a staffer to investigate the U.S. Attorney who was pressing charges against Aaron.

We want the inquiry to proceed, and to be broadened to include a more thorough investigation into rampant over-prosecution of alleged crimes with no victims -- as in the case of what Aaron was accused of. And we want those who abused their power to be held to account.

We loved Aaron -- so many people loved Aaron -- and his death is tragic. We and others who were close to him are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, and the calls for justice. Thank you for joining us in that fight.
Add your name at right to join us in demanding justice for Aaron.

Here's Slate on the CFAA.
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