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.