Reddit's Aaron Swartz Charged with Data Theft
The Internet activist is accused of downloading millions of files from a library archive
The New York Times is reporting that Aaron Swartz, the 24-year-old co-founder of the social news website Reddit, was indicted on Tuesday in Boston on charges that he broke into a restricted computer wiring closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, accessed the school's computer network, and copied millions of documents from JSTOR, a digital archive of scientific journals and academic papers, to distribute on file-sharing sites. Not surprisingly, the story of Swartz's arrest is one of the top stories on Reddit right now. If convicted, Swartz could face up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to The Times. You can read the full indictment here.
Swartz's nonprofit, Demand Progress, has released a statement condemning the indictment and posted a petition in support of the online political activist. "As best as we can tell, he is being charged with allegedly downloading too many scholarly journal articles from the Web," the organization writes. It quotes Stanford librarian James Jacobs as saying, "Aaron's prosecution undermines academic inquiry and democratic principles. It's incredible that the government would try to lock someone up for allegedly looking up articles at a library." Swartz, who was released today after posting $100,000 in bail, has plead not guilty.
While most news organizations (and Demand Progress) are identifying Swartz as a "Reddit co-founder," Alexis Ohanian tells Gizmodo that he and Steve Huffman co-founded Reddit and simply acquired Swartz's company. Swartz was fired from Reddit in 2006 after Conde Nast acquired the site.