The Guardian - Notes from the frontline of the war in cyberspace

Discussion in 'Freedom of Expression' started by The Wrong Guy, May 4, 2013.

  1. The Wrong Guy Member

    Security alert: notes from the frontline of the war in cyberspace

    The battle for control of cyberspace is turning nasty, with young hackers, pirates and activists facing long prison sentences. We report from the frontline

    By Jon Ronson, The Guardian, May 3, 2013

    A short, handsome man bounces outside the colossal courthouse on Walnut Street, Newark, New Jersey. He's doing it to keep warm – it is freezing today – and also because he's fired up. His name is Andrew Auernheimer, but he's known across the internet as "weev". His 20 or so friends are young and pale, as if they spend too much time indoors. One, a good-looking woman, starts crying.

    "I'll miss you, darling," he says, hugging her. "Don't cry on me now. It's all right."

    Today is Andrew's sentencing. He has about an hour of freedom left. "Let's read some Keats," he announces. He opens his tablet: "'Poets and fanatics will be known…'" Ten minutes later: "I'm going inside. Let's roll."

    Now we're in the elevator. I hear his girlfriend say, "As Bill Hicks said, 'Hitler had the right idea. He was just an underachiever.'" Then she adds, "I'm being facetious. You should not kill anyone."

    We take our seats in court 5C. The ushers tell us to turn off our phones. It turns out that another man will be sentenced first. He appears from a door at the back. He's tiny, wearing a yellow jumpsuit emblazoned with the word "FEDERAL". Judge Wigenton takes her seat. She asks him if he has anything to say.

    "Please forgive me for having committed this offence," he begins. "I'm totally repentant in my mind."

    He says he loves America and wants to apologise to everyone in the room. This is unnecessary, because practically nobody here has any idea who he is. This crowd is for Andrew Auernheimer. The man has committed some drug-trafficking offence. He's already been in custody for 17 months. After some procedural business, the judge sentences him to time served. He's free to go. She wishes him luck. He looks ready to cry. While this is going on, eight very large men file in. They're US marshals. They're here because Andrew won't be released today.

    Back in January, the young tech entrepreneur Aaron Swartz killed himself. His body was found in his Brooklyn apartment. He was facing prison for downloading a mass of copyright-protected academic journals belonging to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was hardly the crime of the century, and he'd probably have got not much more than a warning had federal prosecutors not intervened. But they did. They announced their intention to send him to jail for up to 35 years. It was like drawing battle lines between the old world that valued copyright protection and privacy of information, and the new world that valued the opposite. Swartz, who had suffered from depression for years, hanged himself. He was 26. He left behind him, among other innovations, Reddit, the open-source social media site, which he co-owned.

    After his death, I became aware of lots of other Aaron Swartzes out there – hackers and pirates and activists facing prison for their ideology of internet freedom. It felt like a concerted worldwide prosecutorial effort to subdue a movement. So I began approaching them. I decided to contact only those people facing imminent imprisonment or trial. What in their lives had led them to that moment? How were they dealing with it?

    Some of them ignored me. I suppose if I were facing prison, paranoid that prosecutors would be scrutinising my every careless word, I'd have ignored me, too. But Andrew Auernheimer emailed me back right away.

    Continued at
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  2. Anonymous Member

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  3. 4chan is serious business.
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