I didn’t know who Aaron Swartz was until his suicide this past week, which shows how out of touch I am with an issue I hold strong principles on. He was a young man of remarkable accomplishment – 26 years old and making a significant difference in the fight for freedom of information and an open internet.
He was facing serious criminal charges for his actions and activism, for subverting network systems to promote accessibility of information – at an academic institution. He put his brilliance with computers and idealism in upholding personal freedoms to use for the common good, but the law and the large institutions it’s come to serve disproportionately opposed him. Now the world no longer has him and the things about him that stretched beyond the reach most individuals could ever dream of.
I need to get my ass in gear. I need to keep read on this realm of politics, and I need to fight for more. I don’t have the skills or vision that Aaron Swartz did, but I know there are many people – the hacktivists (and yes, I’m accepting that as a legitimate word now) behind Anonymous and similar groups who work loosely but united to keep the message heard and the power of the people known – who can and will contribute to this cause.
Ownership of information is vague and ambiguous when multiple parties are involved in creating, transforming, sharing, and applying it. We should always be suspicious of who is claiming intellectual territory, and vigilant in maintaining the right to use information and ideas in a public and open sphere. We need to fight hardest for our freedom of speech – and that’s a freedom of dialogue.