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And Like That; Anonymous is Back and Looking for Justice Over Aaron Swartz's Death

by on27 January 2013 5309 times
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After Anonymous pulled their support from WikiLeaks many thought the group would drift off into obscurity. After all, many in the press still think that Anonymous was formed after WikiLeaks started, so why not have that misguided opinion. The reality is that Anonymous existed long before WikiLeaks, and will continue to exist when WikiLeaks is a long forgotten memory. The collective (there is no leader despite what you might here from other media sources) has matured in many ways though, and does not appear to be hell-bent on hitting every single site that annoys them anymore. At least that is what we are seeing: there will always be members who will lash out or simply try to hack a site for the fun of it, but the collective has calmed for the most part.

Still, they were never gone and no amount of chest thumping from the US Government or the many “Anti”-Anonymous groups will ever make them go away. Instead, they appear to be choosing their battles based on what will have the most impact and do the most “good”.  In this case they are going head to head with the people that have teamed up with the Copyright Industry in the US. These are all of the Government Agencies that are letting the Copyright lobby kill off the few remaining consumer rights out there. It has gotten so bad that one supporter of free information was hounded by the US DoJ until he tragically committed suicide.  We are talking about Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz was facing 50 years in prison for downloading and distributing academic papers. These were papers that, as it turns out, were not even protected under copyright law and yet the company that maintained them pursued this case to a ridiculous extent and it resulted in the death of the 26 year old Swartz, who also happened to be a rather important activist against the increasingly draconian copyright law.

 There are many who feel that what was done to Aaron Swartz was an attempt by the industry to send a message to other activists. According to Anonymous, a line was crossed this time and they plan to make those responsible pay for the death of Aaron Swartz.  To do this, they hacked the US Sentencing Commission Web Site and replaced the front page with a video and text that contained the following message:

“Citizens of the world, Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the "discretion" or prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain.”

As you can see, they feel (like many others) that the US Government and Justice system is no longer about protecting the citizen, but about enforcing someone else’s desires. We have watched over the last couple of years as lawmakers have pushed the limits of the laws and have even re-written many to suit corporations that have tightened their grip on the folks in Washington. In addition to the site hacking, Anonymous claims they have taken secret documents from several agencies that they will make public in retaliation for Swartz’s death.

But let’s be honest: the Copyright industry and lobby have been working to stifle innovation and progress for a very long time. We have watched this effort grow and grow over the last 10+ years, ever since the heady days of Napster , Limewire, Morpheous and others that sprang up with the infancy of the internet. Although most (if not all) of the material was available publicly over the radio and the practice of recording music from the radio is very old, the simple matter of making these files available in a new format created a panic and resulted in massive lawsuits against the groups that were running these services and then to individuals that were downloading these same files all because of the community of sharing.

From the days of Napster we ran into new laws that allowed the US Government to seize domain names on the mere suspicions that a site was offering files illegally. These efforts were followed by attempts to pass a few laws that would have made Deep Packet Inspection, DNS Filtering, Traffic Monitoring and worse not only legal, but required. All of this would have been to prop up the old and outdated business model of the copyright lobby. After these, when two separate attempts to control the internet failed, the Copyright lobby called in some favors and went after Megaupload. This was despite the fact that less than a year earlier Megaupload was not only praised for the tools that they provided to remove infringing content, but for their cooperation with the authorities.  In fact, the FBI and DoJ used information that Megaupload had turned over to them during their cooperation in another investigation (and have led to allegations of entrapment).

Still, even with all of this less-than-ethical behavior the industry had never gone quite as far as they have now. With their efforts to pursue and make an example of Aaron Swartz they have truly cross a line. Their bullying and hounding combined with the enormous sentence that they wanted to enact pushed Swartz to take his own life rather than face a system that has lost sight of what it is actually here to do. Instead of actually looking at the evidence and using established law, precedent and ethics to find a verdict, they bent to the will of others. This was the line that was crossed; the line that shows that not even the courts are beyond the influence of these groups that want to control more than just the internet.

We have a feeling that what has happened is just the opening shots in a new war against the Copyright lobby/ US Government. We know from some of the past breaches that the Anonymous Collective is capable of doing a great deal of damage when provoked. This time it is not just about greed, but it is about the death of a young man with great promise and who championed the concept of freedom of information and the sharing of culture. Things are bound to get ugly for the US Government and the Copyright lobby in the near future and if Anonymous’ claims about secret documents are true… well, we can expect them to publish these things soon and they could be quite embarrassing.

What do you think about the latest Anonymous Attack? Tell us in our Forum.

Last modified on 27 January 2013
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