A mentor to online activist Aaron Swartz remembered him on Monday in an emotional interview with Democracy Now anchor Amy Goodman.
“All of us think there are a thousand things we could have done,” Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig said. “A thousand things we could have done, and we have to do. Because Aaron Swartz is now an icon, an ideal. He is what we will be fighting for, all of us, for the rest of our lives.”
Swartz, the co-founder of the social networking site Reddit who developed the RSS feeds common to online publishing at the age of 14, committed suicide on Saturday. He was indicted in 2011 for allegedly downloading academic documents from the online archive known as JSTOR after breaking into a utility closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with the intention of releasing them into public domain.
Swartz was scheduled to go to trial in April on charges of computer fraud. While JSTOR declined to press charges, and subsequently released the documents itself, the U.S. Justice Department pursued a case against him.
In a statement shortly after Swartz’s death, MIT President Rafael Reif said, “I will not attempt to summarize here the complex events of the past two years. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT.”
While Reif’s statement did prompt the hacker activist collective Anonymous to cease an attack on the school’s website, Swartz’s family criticized MIT in a statement of its own, saying decisions by the school and the Justice Department “contributed to his death.”
Lessig, who acknowledged he acted as an attorney to Swartz, also scoffed at the accusations against him.
“The government was not gonna stop until he admitted he was a felon,” Lessig said. “In a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House, it’s ridiculous to think Aaron Swartz was a felon.”
Watch Lessig’s interview with Goodman, aired on Jan. 14, 2013, below.