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MIT to release redacted documents in Aaron Swartz case

University president says MIT "not afraid to reexamine our own actions" in connection with the chronology of events leading up to January suicide of noted Internet activist.

Aaron Swartz.
Fred Benson/Creative Commons: Flickr
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will release a trove of documents related to the prosecution of Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide in January at the age of 26 as he awaited trial on hacking charges.

Critics had faulted MIT's compliance with federal prosecutors planning the case against Swartz, but university President Rafael Reif said in a Tuesday announcement that MIT was "not afraid to reexamine our own actions" and that he was ordering the release in "the spirit of openness, balanced with responsibility."

The documents will be redacted to protect privacy and the university's network vulnerabilities, he wrote.

"In the time since Aaron Swartz's suicide, we have seen a pattern of harassment and personal threats," he wrote. "In this volatile atmosphere, I have the responsibility to protect the privacy and safety of those members of our community who have become involved in this matter in the course of doing their jobs for MIT, and to ensure a safe environment for all of us who call MIT home."

Swartz, who was involved in the movement for open-access rights to documents on the Internet, hanged himself on Jan. 11, two years to the day after he was arrested on charges of stealing 4 million documents from MIT and Jstor, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. He had faced $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison if convicted.