Aaron Swartz, a former employee at popular link sharing website Reddit was indicted this week for data theft after it was found that he had stolen more than 4 million documents from MIT and the academic journal and paper archive JSTOR.
District of Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz filed charges against Swartz after determining that he had broken into MIT to steal the documents.
Among his various serious charges are wire fraud, computer fraud and “obtaining information from a protected computer” plus criminal forfeiture, charges which could place Swartz behind bars for up to 35 years, while slapping him with a $1 million fine.
When not committing random acts of crime Swartz is actually the found of a non-profit organization called Demand Progress which examined public policy and the internet.
Demand Progress has released a statement in which they state that they don’t believe their founder “broke into” MIT facilities, noting:
“As best as we can tell, he is being charged with allegedly downloading too many scholarly journal articles from the Web. The government contends that downloading said articles is actually felony computer hacking and should be punished with time in prison.”
I have to point out that while the New York Times claims Swartz co-founded Reddit and he backs up that claim on his own personal website, however site co-founder Alexis Ohanian denies that claim and says Swartz’s company was acquired by Reddit six months after the site had already launched.
The indictment will likely have no effect on Reddit but it does once again show that many top innovators in the social media space continue to treat almost all information as open to the public, despite where and how that documentation might be stored.
In the meantime, the story as should be expected is the number one post on Reddit, featuring 294 comments at the time of this post with more comments being added by the minute.