EFF invites everyone to participate this Saturday, Nov. 13, in this year’s (virtual) Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon—an annual event celebrating the life and continuing legacy of activist, programmer, and entrepreneur Aaron Swartz.
Aaron Swartz was a digital rights champion who believed deeply in keeping the internet open. EFF was honored to call him an ally and friend. His life was cut short in 2013, after federal prosecutors charged him under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) for systematically downloading academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR. With the threat of a long and unjust sentence before him, Aaron died by suicide at the age of 26.
He would have turned 35 this year, on November 8.
Aaron’s death laid bare how federal prosecutors have abused the CFAA by wielding it to levy heavy penalties for any behavior they don’t like that happens to involve a computer, rather than stopping malicious computer break-ins. EFF has continued to fight its misuses, including filing a brief in a recent Supreme Court case, Van Buren v. United States, in support of computer security researchers. In a victory for all internet users, the court recognized the danger of applying this law too broadly, and rejected the U.S. government’s broad interpretation of it.
On Saturday, EFF Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel Kurt Opsahl will speak about that case and what the new ruling means for researchers like Aaron at 11:15 a.m. Following him at noon, EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow will present his keynote speech, “Move Fast and Fix Things: Aaron’s Legacy, Competitive Compatibility and the CFAA.”
In addition to speakers from EFF, the day will feature several talks from other friends and colleagues of Aaron, including Conor Schaefer of the Freedom of the Press Foundation for an annual update on one of Aaron’s projects, SecureDrop; presentations from Michael “Mek” Karpeles, Brewster Kahle, and Tracey Jaquith of the Internet Archive; and a look at this year’s hackathon project from Aaron Swartz Day co-founder Lisa Rein.
There will also be several speakers from Bad Apple—a suite of easy-to-use tools designed to assist in the ongoing fight for police and sheriff accountability—to offer insights they’ve gleaned from working on the project and information about how to get involved. A full list of speakers and talk descriptions is available here.
Virtual talks begin at 10 a.m. PT and run until 5:15 p.m. After the programmed portion of the day wraps, all participants are invited for a more informal hangout on Chelsea Manning’s Twitch stream.
If you can’t make it on Saturday, you can still pay tribute to Aaron’s legacy with volunteer work. This year, the organizers of Aaron Swartz Day are pointing volunteers to Bad Apple, to publicize and use the project, help review code, or volunteer some time to build up its databases. Visit www.aaronswartzday.org for more information.