MIT Is Launching an Internal Investigation To Determine Its Possible Role In Aaron Swartz's Suicide

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It's no secret that a factor in Aaron Swartz's recent suicide was likely the charges being pressed against him by in part by MIT over the whole JSTOR incident. While JSTOR backed off, MIT tacitly backed the U.S. attorneys who continued to push, hard. Now, after being criticized in a statement by Swartz's friends and family, MIT has announced its intention to go back and investigate the legal action internally.

In a statement emailed to the press, President of MIT L. Rafael Reif make it clear that Swartz was not actually associated with the MIT community in any official way, but still mourns the death of a "a gifted young man well known and admired by many in the MIT community," praising Swartz's "brilliant creativity and idealism."

With regard to the impending investigation, Reif states:

I have asked Professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.

Whether MIT will wind up justifying its case against Aaron, or softening its tune in the wake of his unfortunate death is anyone's guess. But considering the matter is probably a good idea, if a bit late.

Image by John Phelan/Creative Commons