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Hackers knock out MIT and DOJ websites in tribute to Aaron Swartz

The websites of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been knocked out today and are currently down. The work is attributed to the loose collective of computer hackers known as Anonymous. At 7:23PM on the Twitter page of @AnonymousIRC, they noted “by the way. down. #Anonymous #AaronSwartz and are both either not loading or giving error messages.

The action was taken as a tribute to the suicide death of web inventor and Chicago native Aaron Swartz. He was a co-founder of the site and at the age of 14, co-developed the RSS web protocol that is the key component of much of the internet’s publishing infrastructure.

At the time of his death, Swartz was being prosecuted by the federal government for downloading articles from JSTOR, an online database of scholarly work. He allegedly used a simple code to use MIT’s network to download academic articles from the entire site and make them freely available. These articles are available for download to anyone for free on JSTOR. He was charged with abusing the system, collecting over 5 million articles with the intent to make them available on the internet in places other than the JSTOR site. Federal prosecutors charged him with a 13 felony counts indictment, while JSTOR was willing to forget about the whole thing, MIT was not.

Due to the pressure from his impending trial and possible imprisonment, Swartz hung himself. He was facing a possible sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a 1 million dollar fine. His body was found Friday in his New York City apartment.

In a less destructive form of tribute, hundreds of academics worldwide have begun tweeting links to their copyright-protected research in Swartz’s honor, using the hastag #pdftribute. Links from Twitter posts with the hastag are being collected at The links appear to be to academic papers.

In a statement about his death, Aaron’s family and partner wrote in part:

"Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world…"

"Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death…Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.”

A 14-year-old, Julia Bluhm, has defeated Seventeen Magazine,

A 14-year-old, Julia Bluhm, has defeated Seventeen Magazine, the most widely distributed teen girls’ magazine in the U.S.—at least for now. Because of Julia’s online petition asking Seventeen to run unaltered photos to show its readers what real beauty and real girls look like, which was signed by 80,000 people, the editors of Seventeen caved. In Seventeen’s August issue, the magazine’s Editor in Chief announced that the magazine vows not to use Photoshop to alter the face shape and body sizes of its teen models, and that it will feature a diversity of models with different body shapes, races, and hair textures — a coup for girls and women. Now it’s up to us to keep the fire to Seventeen’s feet. Though chances are that Julia will likely do that for us. :



An awesome example of FIERCE’s direct action work at January’s Creating Change at an Obama administration panel:


On Friday, January 27, 2012 at the Creating Change Conference Baltimore, FIERCE delivers a message to the LGBT Liaison to the White House, the Department of Defense, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development at “The Obama Administration and LGBT Community”…

Press release - Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald Accepts Plea Agreement to Reduced Manslaughter Charge


Racism Transphobia in Legal System, Continued Assault, McDonald Survived, Supporters Charge

Contact: Katie Burgess, Executive Director, Trans Youth Support Network,, (612) 363-757 and Billy Navarro Jr, MN TransgenderHealth Coalition,, (612) 823-1152 

Minneapolis, MN — Earlier today, Ms. Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald accepted a plea agreement to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the second degree in the criminal case resulting from the racist, transphobic assault she survived last June that left one of her attackers dead. The prosecution had originally charged her with felony murder in the second degree. However, after entering into plea negotiations this morning, the defense and the prosecution settled on the reduced charge. McDonald will be sentenced on June 4th at 1:30pm under Hennepin County Judge Daniel Moreno to 41 months in prison. The executed sentence will be reduced by one third, for “good time” and credit for the time McDonald has served pending this resolution.

The plea agreement comes nearly a year after McDonald was arrested, interrogated, denied adequate medical care for a laceration she suffered during the attack and held in solitary confinement for a month for being a transgender person. During the pre-trial proceedings, supporters raised world-wide support for the charges against McDonald to be dropped. Last month, supporters delivered to Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman a petition for dropping the charges with over 15,000 signatures and dozens of letters of support for McDonald from organizations and prominent individuals from around the globe. Freeman consistently failed to exercise his professional discretion and take a stand against racism and transphobia by dropping the charges.

“Freeman’s aggressive prosecution of CeCe was a continuation of the racist, transphobic assault that led to her being charged and resulted in the tragic death of one of the assailants,” said Kris Gebhard of the CeCe McDonald Support Committee. “We’ve been proud to stand with CeCe as she fought this unjust prosecution and will continue to stand with her as she fights for justice as a trans woman of color within the prison system.”

In a press conference after the plea agreement was accepted in court, Katie Burgess of the Trans Youth Support Network addressed the crowd of supporters filling the steps outside the HennepinCounty Courthouse. Burgess said:

“Over the past 10 months I have witnessed the legal system isolating and attacking another young trans woman of color in our community, CeCe McDonald. And over the past 10 months, I have also witnessed our community say very clearly, ‘You are not alone, CeCe! And we have had enough!’

“With the whole world watching, Freeman’s office consistently chose not to take the opportunity to stand up against racism and transphobia. Freeman himself said, and I quote, ‘The criminal justice system is not built for, nor is it necessarily good at, solving a lot of society’s problems.’

“We know that this system is not designed to deliver justice to young trans women of color. We are going to continue to support CeCe as she goes through this process and continue to stand for justice for all trans people and people of color so that this is the last time a young trans woman ofcolor has to go through this.”

Supporters will pack the courtroom for the sentencing on June 4th and continue to rally support for McDonald and to demand justice for all trans people and people of color.

For further updates, visit and follow @Free_CeCe.

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