Internet hacktivists hold global ‘hackathon’ in honor of Aaron Swartz’s birthday
The hackathon will be a global phenomenon, spanning 11 cities including Berlin, Boston, New York, Buenos Aires and Oxford, according to its affiliated website. However, its main location will be in San Francisco where programmers, developers, artists, researchers, and activists gather together, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
This year’s hackathon theme is “setting the record straight,” it announced. The day will feature seven speakers sharing recent developments in many Aaron-related projects and issues. On Saturday, a film is being shown – “the Internet’s Own Boy” – documenting his life.
A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers come together for a shared purpose to engage in intensive collaboration on software projects.
The hackathon will start Saturday and Sunday at 11am in the Great Room of the Internet Archive. Anything created in the time span will be considered completely open source.
— Ali Hashmi (@alihashmi01) November 8, 2014
“We’re excited that SecureDrop is one of the many projects being hacked on over the weekend. SecureDrop is an open-source whistleblower submission system managed by Freedom of the Press Foundation that media organizations use to securely accept documents from anonymous sources. The project was originally coded by Aaron,” the EFF website announced.
Swartz was a 26 year-old information transparency activist, who took his own life nearly two years ago, having faced a standoff with the government.
When he was just 14, tech prodigy Swartz helped launch the first RSS feeds. By the time he turned 19, his company had merged with Reddit, which would become one of the most popular websites in the world.
But instead of living a happy life of a Silicon Valley genius, Swartz went on to champion a free internet, becoming a political activist calling for others to join.
Swartz drew the FBI’s attention in 2008, when he downloaded and released about 2.7 million federal court documents from a restricted service. The government did not press charges because the documents were, in fact, public.
He was arrested in 2011, for downloading academic articles from a subscription-based research website JSTOR – at his university – with the intention of making them available to the public. Although, none of what he downloaded was classified, prosecutors wanted to put him in jail for 35 years.
The official site underscores how it wishes to set the record straight.
“FACT: Aaron did not hack into any of MIT’s computers. The CFAA requires that a person gain access to a computer that they weren’t authorized to access. Aaron was obviously authorized to access his own laptop,” it notes, adding that Aaron wasn’t even violating JSTOR’s Terms of Service at the time. "JSTOR and MIT had contractual agreements allowing unlimited downloads to any computers on MITs network."