Australian commentary on Aaron Swartz



blog Many of you will be aware that earlier this month one of the Internet’s brightest young stars was tragically lost. US citizen Aaron Swartz was known for many things — helping to create the RSS specification, helping to form giant discussion board and information aggregator Reddit, and campaigning against draconian technology-related legislation and archaic copyright restrictions. And due to his global influence, a number of Australian writers have penned pieces discussing the themes of his life.

The first piece comes from a local Internet activist, Asher Wolf (not her real name), who has been active on many of the same issues as Swartz (founding the CryptoParty movement, for example). Wolf writes in an angry post entitled ‘In memory of Aaron Swartz’:

“Young people putting their rare skills to use, to try to make the world just a little bit better for the rest of us – are driven into the ground, persecuted on the whims of over-funded law-enforcement agencies.

And meanwhile the U.S. is so blinded by fear of having it’s rotten core exposed by transparency and information initiatives it is literally cutting off it’s own future human talent pool, slashing the crop further and further each day.”

Over at iTNews, Charis Palmer chronicles how academics are taking to Twitter to post links to their research papers, in a copyright-breaching act of tribute to Swartz. Palmer quotes local academic David Glance as saying he would be “more committed to the idea of publishing his research in open access journals” following the death of Swartz, who had strongly pushed open access for academic material.

And over at Crikey, regular Internet commentator Bernard Keane pens a piece arguing that the prosecution of Swartz’ activism at releasing academic articles onto the Internet was indicative of a growing trend towards overprosecution of Internet activists, with another example being Bradly Manning, who is suspected of leaking US Government material to Wikileaks. He writes:

“Eventually, elites either have to shift to a full-scale surveillance state like East Germany or Iran, inculcate self-censorship like the Chinese government or accept the power balance between citizens and their governments has shifted in favour of the former.”

I didn’t know of Swartz before his passing was highly publicised over the past couple of weeks, but reading into his life since that point, it seems apparent the activist lived at the nexus of several different important trends regarding the Internet, the changing nature of information and and public and private transparency. It seems the impact of Swartz’ passing in the midst of this nexus will continue to cause many to think deeply on the issues he was involved in for some time — including in Australia. Certainly, whether it be regarding Internet filtering, government transparency, data retention or corporate secrecy, many of the same issues Swartz was active on in the US are very current issues in Australia.

Image credit: Daniel J. Sieradski, Creative Commons


  1. The arrogance and basic lack of human decency, on the part of Carmen Ortiz and her lackeys, are really stunning. Aaron Swartz is not the only case her office mishandled: see Carmen Ortiz’s Sordid Rap Sheet,

    Petition the Obama administration to: Remove United States District Attorney Carmen Ortiz from office for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz

  2. Hi Renai, sorry to post a link here, but this story from the Independent Australian from last year shows just how big business is managing to get Gov’s around the world to do their bidding at our expense thru deceptive practices:

    You can really see this in action here in australia against the NBN (and a few other big issues) via the MSM because Murdoch et al are afraid it will dilute their stranglehold on the government of the day.

    Because of these practices we now have big content directing the US Gov to shutdown companies like MegaUpload, the persecution of Bradley Manning & Julian Assange & Aaron Swartz and we have insane copyrights now giving big corporations 100+ year income rights (even patents only get 15 years!).

    It’s pretty disturbing TBH. :-(

    PS, if you want to be even more disturbed by how bad corp control over government is in the USA in-particular, watch Food Inc!

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