A collective of hackers known as Anonymous commandeered a Department of Justice website Saturday to protest what it called the harsh treatment by government prosecutors of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide this month.
The hackers replaced the site’s content with a video denouncing the government and praising the 26-year-old co-founder of Reddit, who hanged himself two weeks ago as his trial date neared for allegedly hacking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network. Swartz, who was accused of illegally downloading academic articles, faced up to 30 years in prison.
Swartz had long promoted open access of information on the Web.
Anonymous said it hacked the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s website to call attention to “the federal sentencing guidelines which enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial.”
The FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, Response Services branch put out a statement Saturday: “We were aware as soon as it happened and are handling it as a criminal investigation.”
The video declared that “a line was crossed” when Swartz, facing what Anonymous called “a twisted and distorted perversion of justice,” decided to kill himself. The hackers decided they had to do something for Swartz, adding that “several more of our brethren now face similar disproportionate persecution.”