Internet activists with the group Anonymous claimed credit for hacking the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website Sunday, in memoriam of the Aaron Swartz, the Reddit co-founder who recently committed suicide.
Reddit users reported the entire mit.edu domain was down, including their school email service. The backup emergency site, emergency.mit.net, was reportedly down too. MIT's website was restored Sunday evening, as Anonymous admitted they were behind the attack.
The Tech, a campus newspaper, reports the shut down lasted for about three hours.
"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 — freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it — enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing — an ideal that we should all support," Anonymous' said in a statement, which replaced MIT's website.
Swartz was battling with the U.S. Department of Justice for more than a year over allegations he illegally downloaded approximately four million scientific documents at MIT’s campus. According to the Washington Post, Swartz could've spent decades locked up if convicted on the felony charges he was facing.
Over the weekend, Swartz' family issued a statement pointing blame at MIT:
"It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims."
Anonymous issued four "wishes" for what they'd like to see come of Swartz' death:
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.
- We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.
In addition to being one of the early minds behind Reddit, Swartz co-authored the technology behind RSS feeds and was active in the battle over the controversial SOPA and PIPA legislation which was meant to reign in illegal downloads on the internet.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated the U.S. Department of Justice's website was hacked as well, based on a report from The Daily Caller. This was incorrect.