Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz championed giving the public free access to scholarly journals, books and a whole host of other material. In an act of hacking by Swartz that put thousands of journal articles from JSTOR on the Internet for free public consumption in violation of JSTOR's terms of agreement, (JSTOR is a subscription service serving academia), Swartz quickly found himself in hot water with the US government, even though he rectified the situation and even though JSTOR dropped the charges against him. Slate describes Swartz as a controversial figure:
Depending on who you believe, he misused MIT’s facilities or he did not; he willfully broke the law or unknowingly broke a poorly defined and selectively enforced law; and he sought to destroy intellectual property or only to prod JSTOR to share research with academics and the taxpayers who had financed it. But the facts no longer matter: By becoming a martyr to open access, Swartz has, for better or worse, dealt a blow to government efforts to delegitimize hackers and their values.
The fury occasioned by the government’s prosecution of Swartz might seem puzzling. If Swartz caused no harm, as his defenders argue, then he would have served no prison time at all. But Swartz’s defenders say that prosecutors should not have brought the case or should not have upped the charges to induce him to plead guilty. Swartz was driven to despair by the prospect of a bankrupting trial, jail time, and the humiliating stigma of a felony conviction, all on account of a vaguely worded law that was wielded like a sledgehammer by an obtuse U.S. attorney to score political points.
Enter Anonymous, a loosely formed hacktivist group that champions Internet freedom. Famous for hacking (among other things) Vatican Radio, the Westboro Baptist Church's website in protest of Westboro's picketing of military funerals, and more recently MIT's websites in retaliation for Aaron Swartz' death, Anonymous decided to strike back once again for Aaron Swartz by taking down the US Sentencing Commission website, a government agency that establishes sentencing policies and practices for the Federal courts. Anonymous' video says that this is about how justice in the United States has increasingly departed from the noble values from which is came and rewards criminals while prosecuting the innocent. The Guardian adds:
Hacktivist group Anonymous said Saturday it had hijacked the website of the US Sentencing Commission in a brazen act of cyber-revenge for the death of internet freedom advocate Aaron Swartz.
Swartz killed himself just over two weeks ago as he faced trial for hackingan online collection of academic journals linked to MIT with the intent of releasing millions of research papers on to the internet.
The 26-year-old had a history of depression but family, friends and supporters said it was the threat of a prison sentence for an act he saw as a political statement that pushed him to suicide. Since his death, Swartz has become a powerful symbol for hackers and activists fighting internet controls.
The website was replaced with a message warning that a "line was crossed" when Swartz killed himself two weeks ago:
The group added that information was like a nuclear weapon, and that it had "enough fissile material for multiple warheads" which it would launch against the justice department and organisations linked to it.
As of the publishing of this article, the site was still down, though cached versions could be found where the message appeared.