M.I.T. Cleared in Report After Suicide of Activist

A long-awaited report released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that the university made mistakes but engaged in no wrongdoing in the case of Aaron Swartz, a renowned programmer and charismatic technology activist who committed suicide in January while facing a federal trial on charges of hacking into the M.I.T. computer network.

M.I.T. did not urge federal law enforcement officials to prosecute Mr. Swartz, the report found, and remained neutral in the case. But the university “missed an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership that we pride ourselves on,” based on its reputation as an institution known “for promoting open access to online information, and for dealing wisely with the risks of computer abuse.”

Mr. Swartz was arrested in January 2011 after downloading more than four million scholarly articles from the fee-based online archive JSTOR; to gain access, he evaded multiple efforts to block him, and even entered an unlocked closet in the basement of a campus building to plug directly into the network.

Mr. Swartz had long argued for public access to many kinds of important documents hidden behind walls of copyright. What he intended to do with the documents has not been established, but he was a co-author of a “guerrilla open-access manifesto” that stated, “We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world.” <Read more.>

Via John Schwartz, The New York Times.