Aaron Swartz was the co-founder of Reddit and RSS. This latter service especially, provided the technology necessary for things like blogs, podcasts, and other marvels of the 21st century. When I read the following article on Swartz and his death, I was reminded of the story of Robin Hood.
Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor. This story has a special resonance in the modern age, because of Occupy Wall Street and the current debate over the 99% versus the 1%. There is growing resentment against the wealthy, at least the wealthy who become so by taking advantage of the less powerful.
Hacking can be seen as a bridge between the poverty-stricken and the elite. Computer hackers like Swartz can empower people by providing them with the information that Swartz and his hacking colleagues obtain fraudulently by accessing large companies’ information on the computer.
That is why the death of Aaron Swartz has resonated for so many people. They see him as a hero, one who was willing to face prison time for the charge of hacking. They basically have the opinion that the government killed Swartz by forcing him into a frame of mind which convinced him to commit suicide.
As the article states, “Swartz’s case highlighted society’s uncertain, evolving view of how to treat people who break into computer systems and share data not to enrich themselves, but to make it available to others.”
This is the quotation that made me think of Robin Hood. If Robin Hood were alive today, would he be arrested? Would the government prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law? Do you think that hackers with good intentions should face criminal prosecution or should they be excused?