Aaron Swartz's Loved Ones Slam 'Whitewash' MIT Report

An internal MIT investigation into the university’s role in the prosecution of Aaron Swartz, and culpability in his tragic suicide, has been slammed by loved ones of the deceased internet activist and programmer as a fluffy PR maneuver that falsely absolves the institution.

“MIT’s behavior throughout the case was reprehensible, and this report is quite frankly a whitewash,” declared Swartz’s surviving partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman in a statement released Tuesday.

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MIT President L. Rafael Reif convened the report after the university fell under widespread condemnation for working with federal prosecutors to slam Swartz with severe charges, including a potential 35-year prison sentence, for allegedly using MIT computers to download 4 million academic journals from JSTOR—which he subsequently returned.

Swartz’s loved ones and lawyer say MIT’s participation in the overreaching prosecution played a role in driving the 26 year old to suicide in January and contributed to a chilling climate in which altruistic information-sharing is severely criminalized. This is despite MIT’s purported commitment to “promoting open access to online information,” a reputation that contributes to the institution’s global prestige.

The report—chaired by MIT professor Hal Abelson who is active in the Creative Commons movement—concludes that the university is not responsible for Swartz’s death and acted as a neutral party. The report does, however, state that the university’s “hands-off attitude” constituted a poor demonstration of ethical leadership, concluding:

Yet, Swartz’s loved ones say the university was anything but hands-off, working directly to aid the prosecution, cripple the defense, and obstruct justice for Swartz—actions that continue to the present-day. Stinebrickner-Kauffman states: