I don’t want anyone to miss the recent piece in the Providence Phoenix on the positive organizing that has emerged out of the tragic loss of Aaron Swartz, particularly around the push to pass “Aaron’s Law” to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act:
There are several critiques of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Courts have interpreted CFAA such that a violation of a product or service’s terms of service can trigger criminal penalties. The law also allows prosecution for the sort of small-bore technical workarounds — altering how a program is used for instance — that is standard fare for hackers. And it focuses too heavily on felony penalties, critics say, with little room for misdemeanors.
The story also deals with some of the emotional issues surrounding this campaign, including insights from David Segal, who is one of the people leading the charge on this issue.
Swartz “was chiefly friends with activists,” Segal says.” He dated an activist. Even his parents have an activist instinct. So I think there was immediately a sense that we had to do something — make something positive happen in light of what had befallen all of us.”
That speaks to me a great deal. Personally, I am pretty new to the internet freedom cause (it was always easy for me to say, “It’s the internet, it’ll always be there, what’re they gonna do?”), but the more I learn about it, the more critical it seems to me. And I have learned that Rhode Island’s usually progressive-champion Congressional delegation is actually not very good on this issue, and may not support Aaron’s Law. So the next time you happen to see a member of our delegation (as you probably will at some point in the next couple months, since this is Rhode Island), it might be worth mentioning this issue.
The death of Aaron Swartz hit me like a ton of bricks. I went to high school at the same K-12 school that Aaron grew up going to, and his younger brother is one of my best friends. As terrible as this loss is, however, I continue to be inspired by the positive activism and organizing that has emerged from dark situation. Let’s make sure something good comes out of this.