Saturday saw 2020’s virtual observation of the annual Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon, which the EFF describes as “a day dedicated to celebrating the continuing legacy of activist, programmer, and entrepreneur Aaron Swartz.” Its official web site notes the wide-ranging event includes “projects and ideas that are still bearing fruit to this day, such as SecureDrop, Open Library, and the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project.” The event even included a virtual session for the Atlas of Surveillance project which involved documenting instances of law enforcement using surveillance technologies like social media monitoring, automated license plate readers, and body-worn cameras. And EFF special advisor Cory Doctorow, director of strategy Danny O’Brien, and senior activist Elliot Harmon also spoke “about Aaron’s legacy and how his work lives on today,” according to the EFF’s announcement: Aaron Swartz was a brilliant champion of digital rights, dedicated to ensuring the Internet remained a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge. EFF was proud to call him a close friend and collaborator. His life was cut short in 2013, after he was charged under the notoriously draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for systematically downloading academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR. Federal prosecutors stretch this law beyond its original purpose of stopping malicious computer break-ins, reserving the right to push for heavy penalties for any behavior they don’t like that happens to involve a computer. This was the case for Aaron, who was charged with eleven counts under the CFAA. Facing decades in prison, Aaron died by suicide at the age of 26. He would have turned 34 this year, on November 8. In addition to EFF projects, the hackathon will focus on projects including SecureDrop, Open Library, and the Aaron Swartz Day Police Surveillance Project. The full lineup of speakers includes Aaron Swartz Day co-founder Lisa Rein, SecureDrop lead Mickael E., researcher Mia Celine, Lucy Parsons Lab founder Freddy Martinez, and Brewster Kahle — co-founder of Aaron Swartz Day and the Internet Archive. All of the presentations are now online.
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