In a long-awaited public response to the death of Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in January after being charged with hacking into MIT computers and illegally downloading millions of academic journal articles, MIT officials today released an internal review of university actions, saying administrators never “targeted” the 26-year-old Internet activist and committed no wrongdoing.
The report, however, also raises concerns about university policies and whether MIT should have been more actively involved.
In a press release, university officials said the report finds that MIT never sought federal prosecution, punishment or jail time, or opposed a plea bargain with Swartz, whose suicide triggered a national debate over whether prosecutors were overzealous in pursuing charges against the computer prodigy.
“I am confident that MIT’s decisions were reasonable, appropriate, and made in good faith,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif said in a statement. “I have heard from many in our community who believe our actions were proper and justified. Others feel differently, and the review panel identifies alternate paths we could have followed, including becoming more actively involved in the case as it evolved.”
At the time of his death, Swartz, who had informal connections to MIT, faced 13 federal felony charges relating to his downloading of more than 4 million academic papers from the online archive JSTOR, or about 80 percent of the JSTOR library. The downloading was carried out surreptitiously using a laptop computer that was left in a basement wiring closet in an MIT building, physically connected to the MIT computer network, according to the press release.
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