HACKTIVISTS HAVE DEFACED the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website after its president called for an internal investigation into what role it played in the prosecution of web activist Aaron Swartz.
MIT president Rafael Reif revealed the investigation in an email to staff that he sent out after hearing the news about Swartz's death.
"I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy," he wrote.
"I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it."
Hacktivists from Anonymous defaced two MIT webpages in the wake of the announcement and turned them into memorials for Swartz.
The defacements also had another message, that the government should back away from this kind of prosecution.
"Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government's prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for," they wrote.
"We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them."
Swartz was accused of downloading research documents from academic service JSTOR and using MIT's networks to do so. If he had been found guilty, he could have been sentenced to up to 35 years in prison.
JSTOR has said that it regrets having been drawn into the case. µ