The debate over whether or not a certain type of hacking is ethical has been a subject of interest for many years. When one thinks of hacking they automatically think of a suspicious character in a dark room pounding at a keyboard, eyes wide and with a mad scientist laugh. Most people assume that all hackers are trying to steal one’s identity, credit card number or other personal info. This is simply not true. Some hackers are merely interested in exploiting the corruption that flows from our system of government. Some only want to promote truth and give other internet users access to knowledge that should be given out freely instead of hidden. Aaron Swartz form of hacking was ethical because it promoted knowledge, freedom, and the fight against injustice.
In 2006 Swartz downloaded federal court documents in order for more people to access them. He was investigated by the FBI for this act, but no charges were given. Later on, PACER started charging citizens to look at the documents. All of these documents should have been free in the first place and remain free. Why is the court system making it so hard for citizens to access knowledge that should be readily available in the first place? Swartz promoted education, knowledge, questioning and understanding. He wanted more people to be involved in the actions our government were taking against our rights and freedoms. He questioned wiki, one of the biggest resources used online, to verify the information and address the truth and research provided from the site.
When Chelsea Manning released a large sum of confidential articles that would claim him in violation of the Espionage act, Swartz was there to make sure that he received a fair trial and received proper and humane treatment. Why would classified information released to the public be portrayed as Espionage? If it is one’s own country then they should have the right to know. In other systems of government, they have corrupt councils that validate whether or not the government is making corrupt decisions and if they find this to be true they penalize them. Just the opposite in the United States if a citizen is questioning its government they are the one’s penalized. Swartz believed that anyone and everyone had to power to see through the bullshit and he supported them when they acted out against it. He was fighting for our education and promoting change within the information we receive.
He was fighting for our freedoms, even if only our virtual and internet based freedoms. He helped prevent the SOPA act which would have allowed the government to control the websites that citizens viewed and utilized. The government and big companies don’t want us to find out all of the information that we should know to be well-educated consumers and voters. If we only knew where all of our products came from, or how they treat prisoners of war would more citizens feel the need to stand up against those in power. Swartz type of hacking wasn’t about stealing but about giving back to the people of the United States. He wanted to give back and remind people of their freedoms and rights to free speech and education.
Swartz might not have realized it at the time, but he was fighting against injustice acts. He studied and researched political corruption. He understood the system and how our society was faltering in the realm of politics and politicians. By creating watchdog.net he was promoting citizen participation in current world news, political press and policy as well as government issues. He wanted people to get involved and that is why he created Demand Progress. This creation allowed more people the accessibility and outlet to express what they wanted change within our society and ideas to implement the change. Swartz wasn’t a hacker, he was a brilliant hacktivist. He wrote the stories that needed to be read.
Daily U.S. citizens will pick up the newspaper or turn on the t.v. and see distractions. We have reality t.v., game shows, celebrity news, irrelevant news, idiotic, simplistic, ridiculous, garbage that serves no purpose. Yet, it does serve a purpose. Someone, somewhere wants the American people to be zombies. They want us to not think for ourselves or question our environment. In order to control people you need to make them feel safe or nothing at all. Make them brainless, thoughtless, careless, and unmotivated. Make them work long hours, pay even less, and subject them to shows that numb their brain. This is what our society has come to and this is what Aaron Swartz was fighting against.
There are certain steps that need to be followed in order for change to occur. One of the steps is to get off the steps completely and do something radical. Aaron released information and documents on the internet that were supposed to remain confidential and private. These documents were research, data, studies and relevant. If we assume and believe that whatever our government tells us is true we then become the fools of our own ignorance. And ignorance is bliss until someone comes along and breaks down the walls of comfort. His actions were not unethical nor are they illegal. His actions were those of an individual who was tired of being lied to. His actions were those of an individual seeking truth, knowledge and justice. He sacrificed his career and his life to validate the need for change and opposition towards our current government.
Everytime I get on the internet I know that I am very lucky to be able to. I know that I have rights and responsibilities when it comes to utilizing the world wide web. Information should not be kept hidden. Knowledge is free and those that search for it will become all the richer. Aaron Swartz actions were noble. He faced many adversaries and fought many interrogations and suits. He wasn’t fighting for his freedom, he was fighting for all of ours.