Recently I have done tons of research on Aaron Swartz. I knew who he was and the basics of what had happened to him leading up to his untimely death and fundamentally I knew that what had happened to him was wrong, but I had completely missed the core part of who Aaron was. The more I learned about Aaron I was astonished. The emerging picture of what kind of a person he was and what he wanted for the world is endearing and shows even more what kind of a travesty this whole performance by Federal Prosecutors and Law enforcement truly was.
Aaron from a very young age saw there were things happening in this world that were inherently wrong. Yes, we all know that there are many things that happen on our planet that are “wrong” and many of these things are out of our control but what Aaron saw was that some of these things weren’t out of his control, that his skillset coupled with the environment and communities he was a part of gave him an advantage and that there were things, some things that were wrong that he could help make right. What and who you know is a big part of making any project work, the part that placed Aaron above and beyond your average Joe who wanted to make the world a better place was his heart. His commitment to protecting the internet and its users, plainly spoken it was his passion for the cause.
Aaron wasn’t like many of the “hackers” I have known. His ego wasn’t overblown and he didn’t seem to enjoy much attention. The driving force inside of Aaron I believe was that Aaron felt a deep responsibility to his online community and to the internet as a whole. He knew there were things to be done and sitting idly by waiting for someone else to hopefully take care of it wasn’t in his nature. He acted on it. He stood up and he stated for all to hear “This isn’t right and there’s something we can do about it!” And then, he did it.
I’ve had this phrase going through my head recently about Aaron, it’s odd because I didn’t know him personally but while trying to make sense of who he was and what happened to him repeatedly I just kept thinking; Aaron is the product of modern technology meeting an old soul. I think there is really something to that. Many of us, unless we have our heads in the clouds can see the bad that happens in the world we can see things getting worse and the direction that certain things are going in, but so often we don’t try to remedy those things. I’m not sure if many of us think it is someone else’s problem or that we have no power to change the things we see or if we just tell ourselves that things can’t go a certain way, that people won’t sit by and just let this bad thing or that bad thing happen. I have news for you my friends, most people will do exactly that.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” I don’t know about you but I heard that old phrase a hundred times growing up but it’s true, we can sit back and let the powers that be make decisions about us and the internet and its future and sure maybe if they make the wrong decision, with a whole lot of work, help and luck we could get those decisions over turned and righted but to assure that we are doing what we can and doing the best to keep Aaron’s legacy alive, the time to act is NOW! Currently there’s lots of things happening that effects the internet and the lives of all of us in one way or another net neutrality and the reintroduction of Aaron’s law are only the tip of the iceberg politicians and corporations have our freedoms lined up straight in their cross-hairs. My friends we are faced with a choice, we can decide to sit back and hope the people who make the decisions make the right ones or we can follow the example Aaron gave us and stand up and make ourselves be counted!
I ask that you contact your representatives and make some noise! Let them know where we as a community stand on CFAA reform and Aaron’s Law. Too many good people have been charged, jailed and as in Aaron’s case taken from us, taken without reason and far too soon. -Kel