The death by suicide of Internet activist Aaron Swartz has sparked outrage around the world, and led to the defacement of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Web site.

Swartz was facing trial for stealing academic articles from the computer archive at MIT, in order to make them freely available.

Although MIT had declined to press charges, a federal trial was to go ahead next month.

Shortly after Swartz’s death, the MIT Web site appeared to suffer a distributed denial of service attack, and later was taken over to display a tribute to Swartz, apparently from Anonymous.

The 26-year-old Swartz, who was one of the authors of RSS when just a teenager, led numerous campaigns calling for information to be freely available on the Web.

The tribute to Swartz on the apparently-hacked MIT site reads as follows:

In Memoriam, Aaron Swartz, November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013, Requiescat in pace

A brief message from Anonymous

Whether or not the government contributed to his suicide, the government’s prosecution of Swartz was a grotesque miscarriage of justice, a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for –  freeing the publicly-funded scientific literature from a publishing system that makes it inaccessible to most of those who paid for it – enabling the collective betterment of the world through the facilitation of sharing – an ideal that we should all support.

Moreover, the situation Aaron found himself in highlights the injustice of US computer crime laws, particularly their punishment regimes, and the highly-questionable justice of pre-trial bargaining. Aaron’s act was undoubtedly political activism; it had tragic consequences.

Our wishes

We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.

We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.

We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.

We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered Internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.

For in the end, we will not be judged according to what we give, but according to what we keep to ourselves.

Aaron, we will sorely miss your friendship, and your help in building a better world. May you read in peace