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Father blames ‘government’ at funeral of Internet activist

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
The casket of Internet activist Aaron Swartz is wheeled to a hearse outside a synagogue in Highland Park at his funeral Tuesday. Swartz, 26, was found dead of an apparent suicide Friday in his New York apartment. He was facing a potentially lengthy prison sentence after being indicted in Boston in 2011 for allegedly gaining access to academic articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

HIGHLAND PARK – Internet freedom activist Aaron Swartz was “killed by the government,” his father told mourners Tuesday during his son’s funeral in suburban Chicago.

Swartz, who helped create Reddit and RSS, the technology behind blogs, podcasts and other web-based subscription services, was found dead Friday in his New York apartment. He was facing federal charges that alleged he illegally gained access to millions of articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer archive.

Robert Swartz said during the service in Highland Park that his son was “hounded by the government, and MIT refused him,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

“He was killed by the government, and MIT betrayed all of its basic principles,” he said.

Swartz, 26, was facing charges that carried a maximum penalty of decades in prison. His trial was scheduled to begin in April.

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz had no comment about Robert Swartz’s remarks, Ortiz spokeswoman Christina DiIorio-Sterling said.

Swartz’s family also lashed out against prosecutors Saturday, saying the death was “the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.”

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.

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, director of the Safra Center for Ethics where Swartz was once a fellow, both spoke at the funeral.

“We felt the indictment was nonsense and that he would be acquitted,” Berners-Lee told the newspaper after the service.

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