What really happened to Aaron Swartz?
The world was made aware of the tragic story of Aaron Swartz through the firestorm he caused in the mass media when he killed himself after a bout of severe depression following serious legal issues related to a hack of the MIT databases in a bid to democratise academic knowledge. However, some people are now suggesting that this well-versed story might not actually be the whole truth and that there are powerful and sinister interests at work trying to keep the truth from the general public.
According to some individuals, Swartz was not attempting to hack JSTOR documents but was actually trying to expose a sinister paedophile conspiracy. It is alleged that a ‘world-famous’ professor had sent encrypted video footage of children engaged in sex acts to concealed databases located on the MIT campus. Swartz, it is alleged, caught wind of the disgusting footage and attempted to hack it in order to reveal it to the world. In order to prevent that from happening, Swartz was murdered to ensure his silence and the story covered by the mass media was fabricated to draw journalists away from what was really going on. But is there any proof for these shocking allegations?
Circumstantial evidence surrounding the Aaron Swartz case does seem to suggest that there was something unusual going on. The security footage which led to Swartz’s indictment shows him plugging a laptop into a steel rack lined with routers and a server, where he remained for an incredibly long period of time.
This prolonged period of time is telling as some people think that it indicates Swartz was downloading high-quality video footage rather than documents which would have downloaded much more quickly. Furthermore, his decision to trespass on the property seems to suggest that the server could only be accessed with a dedicated line rather than a remote hack. This indicates that the information on the server was heavily encrypted.
All of this seems strange as Swartz could have hacked the JSTOR servers without entering the building at all. He was a research fellow with the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and could have probably located a webmaster with a password to the JSTOR server and accessed it from there. His choice to enter the building in order to hack the server directly suggests that he was attempting to extract entirely different data. Furthermore, MIT does not have ownership of the JSTOR data which is owned by a not-for-profit organized. Therefore, the fact that the university pressed charges against Swartz rather than the actual owners of the JSTOR data suggests that Swartz actually accessed something different.
There have also been questions raised over Swartz’s cause of death. The police claimed that he had hung himself with a belt, and yet, his very slight frame suggests that this would have been practically impossible. Could it be that there was something more to his death than the authorities want to reveal to the public?
While all of the evidence surrounding the alternative theory on the Aaron Swartz case is circumstantial it certainly begs closer analysis. Furthermore, it also raises questions about the integrity of the media in this case. Why did they not raise questions about the obvious discrepancies in the story at the time?