The Arkansas hacker who became a more pugnacious disciple of Aaron Swartz can go free, a federal appeals court ruled this morning.
|Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer|
The news prompted giddy headlines throughout the tech blogosphere, many of which treated Andrew "Weev" Auernheimer as a cause celebre. "Weev Is Free!" TechCrunch trumpeted. "Hacker Weev's Chilling Conviction Is Overturned," said the more measured headline on Huffington Post.
Journalists have assiduously followed the hacker's case since 2012, when a New Jersey jury convicted him of gathering the personal data of 140,000 iPad users from a publicly available AT&T site, and leaking it to Gawker. Weev said he wanted to expose flaws in AT&T's privacy settings, and maintained, in an impassioned speech delivered the day of his sentencing, that he'd been sent to jail "for arithmetic."
His obdurate stance and flamboyant media persona drew international attention, as did the timing of the case; it roughly coincided with the prosecution of famed hacker Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide before he could be tried for downloading academic articles from JSTOR. Both Weev and Swartz were tried under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a controversial law originally meant to discourage hackers from drilling past a firewall. In recent years, the government has used it to go after renegade programmers who feel compelled to make information accessible to the public.
That was the crux of Weev's case: It put a law on trial, in the guise of an individual. In the end, Weev's polarizing, trollish, douchebag personality was less important than the conflict he represented.
But the three-judge appeals panel managed to completely overlook that debate, when it vacated Weev's conviction this morning.More »