Aaron Swartz and Cyber liberty

Some see the Internet a wonderful network of distributed and interconnected nodes, all working together and individually in harmony. While this might be true in some aspects, this view of the Internet as a libertarian utopia where all nodes are created equal is a future only imagined by Naïve 1980 cyber hippies; which saw the Internet as facilitating freedom of information to all.

The Internet in reality is a very commercialized, privatized and a censored place, a stance that most cyberspace citizens will agree with. Toffler and co explains that the reason for this lies in the government’s efforts to apply ‘Second Wave economy’ (commercialized, industrial) rules and regulations to the ‘Third wave economy’ (cyberspace or knowledge age). The social and political history for this is brilliantly outlined in Evgeny Morozov’s 2011 book ‘The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom’, so give that a read.

While this view of the Internet might be discouraging, there are some out there working diligently to fix this; these members describe to an ideology known as Cyber libertarianism, where information freedom, end of online regulation and online privacy, are core values.

One of these activists is Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer and Internet ‘hactivist’. For more information of his extraordinary life, explore the biographical infographic I created below.

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz fought for freedom of access to information, intellectual property rights and copyright among other things, his autobiographical documentary ‘The internet’s own boy’ echoed Toffler’s concerns about the conditions of cyberspace.

Below I seek to show the correlation between Toffler’s concerns about the cyberspace and the Swartz’s case study.

4 things

One interesting comparison that I found in the autobiography was this constant reference to Swartz’s script (used to download JSOR documents) not doing any real damage therefore is not seen as harmful. This reminded me of Lessing’s story about the ‘worm’ that ‘sniffs’ out the wanted information without ‘interfering’ with the operation of machine.

What this all boils down to is that in order to have a cyberspace that mirrors the utopian possibilities of the internet once imagined, we need to fundamental rethink not only government policy, but also concept of freedom and the definition of property in the knowledge age.

When it comes to freedom of access on the internet, nothing is perfect still.

But the life of Aaron Swartz inspired unprecedented equality in policies regarding freedom on the internet. Even though he’s gone, the whole online community continues to honor him. Even after an untimely death Aaron Swartz’s legacy will continue to live on.

Additional Refrences:


Swartz, A 2008, ‘Guerilla Open Access Manifesto’, accessed 12/08/2015, https://archive.org/stream/GuerillaOpenAccessManifesto/Goamjuly2008_djvu.txt

The Biography.com 2015, accessed 11/08/2015, http://www.biography.com/people/aaron-swartz


9 thoughts on “Aaron Swartz and Cyber liberty

  1. Hey Michelle,

    Your post is w very well written response the week’s topics, and I like how you have furthered your knowledge with different resources as well as using the as only background lecture reference. It shows that you are engaged in learning about the topic, and this enables your readers to also extend their own knowledge about this aspect of cyberspace.

    The contradictory nature of the internet has become the basis for many arguments over governments corporations and organisations trying to, in essence, tame a wild beast with a leash in order to exert even minuscule control over how it lives. Old world thinking to censor new world developments. They even might be able to achieve this institutionalization, but not nearly in the scale that would be needed to completely control the internet, yet even their attempts to control it are ironic given the internet’s fundamentally ‘free’ nature. No gatekeepers controlling the flow of information, yet no regulators to direct it either.

    I also wanted to commend you on your use and creation of both the linked video and your graphics. By including the trailer (and also your pointing towards Morozov’s text) you encourage the reader to do their own research and come to their own conclusions regarding the points you have made in your post, and this will allow the viewer greater understanding and knowledge to take away from this blog. Your graphics are also very relevant to the information you have presented, and actually allow a break of just text information into a different form that catches the reader’s eye and further encourages them to continue with your post.

    Thank you for a fantastic post and I look forward to more!


    1. Thanks Hayley, I really like exploring different aspects of each weeks content instead of giving a basic recount of the weeks content. I defiantly agree with you that there needs to be less censorship on the internet. I pride myself in adding to the conversion by adding more relevant research and sources, instead of being a copy of information already out there. Hope you enjoyed the blog and the content more to come.


  2. I really enjoyed reading your post. I hadn’t actually heard of Aaron Swartz or Cyber libertarianism until watching ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ last year. I enjoyed the documentary immensely and it opened my eyes. I found the whole issue fascinating, as it is an issue that more people should be talking about. One of my favourite quotes from Aaron Swartz is ‘Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves’. This is true and must be stoped. What he was able to achieve in such as short period of time is inspiring. I absolutely agree that his legacy will live on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Michelle,
    This was a really captivating read! I also had not heard of Aaron Swartz either, and this is a really relevant source for the topic/subject. It is interesting to follow the online footsteps of cyber activists and to see if a difference can truly be made. With infinite users participating online and engaging in cyberspace at all times, the online sphere appears to be flooded with negative content and negative users. It seems that our online network has become a rather dystopian space, as apposed to utopian which was originally forecasted.
    It will be surprising to see what direction cyberspace as we know it takes, and if more online activist like Aaron Swartz will continue to fight for change.


  4. Hi Michelle,

    Great over all post this week. I enjoyed it because you’ve given insight into Aaron Swartz, whom was not mentioned a great deal in class. Aaron Swartz certainly was an inspirational whistle-blower of our time. His production of the site Creative Commons, for me really shows that the internet has the ability to function with sites that enable reproduction or reuse of other peoples’ work.

    Though when we consider the deep web of information that is available and its inaccessibility, we start to realize Scwartzs’ point. Who controls our access to this information? How is it distributed and what are ways that we can go about changing this? Do we use different search engines? Should search engines not track cookies?

    I suppose, for me, that is why using Reddit (Swartz also had something to do with Reddit didn’t he?) is an interesting new platform.The information that is most easily accessible or immediate is democratically liked or disliked by the users. I honestly haven’t used it much but I am looking forward to exploring it more!

    Great post, look forward to reading more!


  5. Interesting read. One note I would like to add is that I believe the SOPA (stop online piracy act) that Swartz was instrumental in dissembling and was referred to in ‘The Internet’s Own Boy’ has recently been rebranded and marketed as part of the TPP (trans-pacific partnership). It is in a way reassuring to know that these antiquated-copyright-protecting bills can be beaten, however, as far as I know the TPP is on its way (seemingly unopposed) and will have the same effect on the Internet as the SOPA would have.

    Here is a bit more information on the TPP if you are interested.




    1. Thanks for that Eddie, yes I am aware that Aaron Swartz was instrumental in the dissembling of SOPA. Its interesting that you noted that they changed the name but the new act does pretty much the same. I was aware of the TPP was under the impression that is wasn’t going to get approved. Time to make some signs and gather the protest buddies ha. Thanks for the link its very helpful.

      Kind regards Michelle


      1. To my knowledge there has been some protest to the TPP but not enough to stop it from going ahead. If you have any more info about opposition to the TPP please feel free to link it to me- I would be very interested to have a look. (also would gladly make some signs and protest with you any day!)



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