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Do You Support Activists Pushing For An Open Web?

Internet activists such as Highland Park's Aaron Swartz and WikiLeaks' Julian Assange want information freely available on the web. Patch wants to know if you support their actions? Join the discussion in the comment section below.

As an Internet activist, Aaron Swartz fought to make information freely available on the web. The 26-year-old from Highland Park, who committed suicide on Jan. 11, founded Demand Progress, an organization devoted to Internet activism and fought expanded government oversight of the Internet. He also helped create the RSS feed and co-founded the social news website Reddit

Similarly, Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks, which publishes classified or confidential documents in the name of openness, is still pushing for more of an open web. 

Patch wants to know: Do you support activists, such as Swartz and Assange, pushing to make information freely available on the web? 

Both Swartz and Assange have landed in trouble with the government for their actions. 

In 2011, Swartz was indicted for gaining illegal access and downloading nearly the entire library of JSTOR, a subscription-based service that distributes academic journals. Prosecutors alleged that Swartz hoped to release the information for free. . 

The government still wants to question Assange over his whistle-blowing website, The Guardian reported. In 2010, WikiLeaks posted thousands of secret documents on the Iraqi war and classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict, The New York Times reported. Among the leaked information was a video showing U.S. air crew shooting down Iraqi civilians, The Guardian reported. 

Related Coverage of Swartz

  • Aaron Swartz Remembered as Internet Activist who Changed the World
  • Internet Activist Aaron Swartz's Teachers Remember 'Brilliant' Student
Eric Lieberman January 18, 2013 at 01:00 PM
Aren't you mixing apples and oranges comparing Assange to Swartz? Assange obtained and published secret information for the purpose of disclosing lies our government feeds us about our endless wars. Swartz, on the other hand, was not seeking to disclose anything that was secret or otherwise unavailable to the public. He was being hounded for copying academic articles that had already been widely published and were available to anyone that cared to pay a license fee. Lumping these guys together misrepresents their actions and intent. Swartz' alleged suicide is a lightening rod for so many of the issues sweeping our nation. It demonstrates the ability for violence without guns. It highlight the problems increasingly reported to be caused by drugs prescribed to treat depression. It surfaces how government agents - keen on earning reputations that will lead to promotions in government and lucrative jobs in the private sector - abuse their prosecutorial powers by pursuing remedies disproportionate to the "crime" and the person charged with the crime. It points to the problems of dealing with "mental health" - despite the respect, and love expressed by hundreds of people for Swartz and what seemed to be a strong network of friends and family - he still, we're told, found himself alone and hopeless. Finally, don't miss the comments by June Shellene at http://evanston.patch.com/blog_posts/the-dawn-must-be-imminent-because-i-cant-imagine-it-getting-much-darker .
Luis Calderon January 18, 2013 at 03:10 PM
"He also created the RSS feed"??? Nonsense - If you want to practice journalism learn how to do the basic research needed to at least get the basic facts right. Swartz played a minor role - along with many others - in tweaking some of the code used in certain RSS applications. But even that was done as part of a group effort years after the entire RSS groundwork had become firmly established by Dave Winer and a few others.
Ed60062 January 18, 2013 at 03:29 PM
So Swartz' goal was to circumvent copyrights and make published material available for free? How is this different from those who pirate software, art, and music thereby depriving the artists and publishers of their rights? And now Swartz is a hero? Someone please explain this.
Chi-an Chang January 18, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Thanks for your feedback, I've corrected the article. Best, Chi-an
Chi-an Chang January 18, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Thanks for your comment and for sharing Shellene's blog post.
Jane Goz January 18, 2013 at 06:50 PM
So the comments above make a point of saying that copyrights are worth this young mans life. Shame on anyone that values money more than they do life! Regardless of what role Aaron played in RSS he did what he thought was right, he did not do this out of greed, he did not make any money from these actions, nor did anyone loose any money! His persecution and punishment was beyond severe. The North Shore is known for creating some of the brightest and best of todays youth, Aaron is an example of that. He exemplified what the young people in today's society believe and encouraged internet freedom. He did not believe that only North Shore kids deserved to learn...that says it all. There are many people on the North Shore that have made a lot of money off poor people, by taking advantage and misrepresenting information. Shame on them and shame on anyone that speaks ill of the dead. He did not deserve to spend 35 years in jail, bottom line. A life of fear was not worth living. How awful for anyone to try to justify these actions in the name of $$$! The youth of today need support and love, not condemnation. We have adopted technology without thinking of the future and how the next generation will be using these new tools. Aaron is not alone and I can only hope that his friends and family know that! People fear technology because they do not understand it , it is pretty simple. The youth are not scared, they do understand it, and their intentions is a better world. Not $$$
Jane Goz January 18, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Technology = Human Evolution through organization, communication and tools. It is not an easy process for people, and the youth have taken that leap into evolution. It is now up to the adults. In the case of Aaron and others...they are not dangerous/violent and don't deserve to be persecuted. We should be focusing on making sure violent criminals go to jail for 35 years...it is absurd. Think of how this looks to the younger generation, how will the youth view the future when people like Aaron are persecuted? How many smart young people will this effect and how can these actions be justified in the court of law when we face such high amounts of violent crime and gun related crime? Again, as a mother, I see a huge gap between our generations and it is sad. We should be focusing on safety of our kids... The youth are instinctively in tune with technology. People that make the laws and policy's should be educated in technology. Crime should be judged on the level of harm done. In this case, the harm done does not equal the punishment!
Ed60062 January 18, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Although his suicide was undeniably a tragedy, he chose to break the law and he chose to end his life. Laws should be overturned and prosecution should not proceed if someone is liable to commit suicide? Makes no sense. Work to change the law if you want but don't blame the government if you break the law and get caught.
Jane Goz January 19, 2013 at 01:23 AM
He did not break a "law" he did not fallow the agreement he made with MIT. There is a difference. Second, Law is supposed to be just, in this case, and many others, does not equal justice. People should not have to fear the government, in this case, he was treated like a dangerous person who deserved to be in jail for up to 35 years...I'm sorry, but he was not a threat to society, Prison should be a place for people who endanger society. So this was not just internet freedom, this was persecution and the people responsible for his death are the lawyers that did not stop threats and intimidation even after they knew he was depressed and suicidal. That is not how the law should work and it is not justice.
beauregard January 19, 2013 at 09:57 PM
ITA. Assanges material public information which is legally due to u.s. citizens thru FOIA. Nobody is entitled to free merchandise (which REALLY) is what was snagged by. The kid.

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