Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Aaron Swartz Memorial in SF - Our First Digital Liberties Martyr?

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 25, 2013

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I attended the Aaron Swartz memorial Thursday evening at the Internet Archive building (above) in San Francisco where several hundred people gathered to mourn his passing.

It was an excellent turnout organized by Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle and supporters. And it was a perfect setting, in a wonderful former Christian Science church (see below). 

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I'll be posting more later, and exploring the future of Aaron Swartz, lost at a tragically early age, and now in death, hoisted onto the shoulders of others and recruited as an activist for a wide number of causes, including the liberation of big data in academia and in publicly funded research.

I witnessed the beginnings of his canonization as speaker after speaker, some knowing him, and others that didn't, begin the construction of a mythology around Aaron Swartz, that will grow ever larger. 

"His canonization is inevitable," John Gilmore, co-founder of the Electronic Freedom Foundation, told me. 

Others, such as Alex Stamos, one of the speakers that evening, told me that nothing can stop his "canonization" but he disagreed with it. 

"I worry that a 16-year old kid that gets trapped in similar circumstances will take their life as Aaron did."

What role did Aaron's depression play in his suicide? Was it a vindictive US government prosecution because of his activism and whistle blowing activities that conspired against him?

Or, as suggested by John Gilmore, was it a lack of activism by others to rally around his court case and causes that paved the road  to his suicide? 

I'll be writing more on this subject, based on many conversations with people that evening, and I'll be posting more photos and videos as I process them.

Here is an except from the speech given by Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, Aaron Swartz's girlfriend, who is convinced that the US justice system led to his suicide. She says, "Aaron's death should radicalize us."

 

 

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