I had the pleasure of watching The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, and let me tell you, this documentary that highlights tragedy that is the US Justice system was quite eye opening.
I’d like to preface with the fact that I think Aaron Swartz was one of the internet’s, if not this generation’s most influential figures. The guy was a damn genius, had incredible ideas for the web itself, and had an amazing desire to make documents that were in the public domain, easily accessible to the public.
Public documents easily accessible to the public…not a crazy desire.
The documentary goes into detail about what Mr. Swartz did with the whole Jstor MIT debacle, and essentially the FBI ended up investigating this person because he downloaded too many public documents, too quickly. It appears he had no intention of reselling these papers, or even posting them up for public viewing, it appears his intentions were to analyze the massive amounts of data, like he had done in the past, to try to improve specific things.
I really connected with the documentary because of how deeply this person seemed to have touched the lives of every single person around him. Mr. Swartz was described as a person who just wanted to make the world a better place.
The other thing that really made me pay attention was the fact that some people in the documentary had the view that the government was trying to make an example of Aaron to prevent people from shaking things up too much. “Hackers” like Aaron posed a threat to the government, and they wanted to scare the shit out of that group of people to prevent that shakeup from affecting their bottom dollar. It’s mind blowing to me that they drove this genius of a man to end his own life.
In addition his contributions to slowing down and killing SOPA are possibly some of the most important contributions to preserving free speech on the internet to date.
There was so much more Mr. Swartz had left to accomplish, so much good that he could have done for this broken system that we have, that we blissfully ignore and accept. The man saw a thing that was broken, that was censoring people and materials that should be available to everyone to further their knowledge. But the government realized how scary an informed public is, and ran him into the ground. The story is tragic, but it is one that every single person needs to be aware of, and informed about so that we can carry on his legacy and his goal to make the world a better place.
If you want to watch the video it’s on Youtube and multiple other places. Check it out.