We the People Petition: Give Aaron Swartz a Citizens Medal

On Friday I got an email from the White House mailing list asking "Who deserves the Citizens Medal?". My immediate answer, without thinking about it, was Aaron Swartz. He didn't quite meet President Obama's criteria "The Citizens Medal recognizes Americans for exemplary deeds of service outside of their regular jobs -- people who feed the needy, who take care of our veterans, or who support our children." However, given Swartz's extraordinary contributions to citizen's access to information and protecting the rights of internet users I believe he is more than qualified and, given that this is would be a posthumous medal, some flexibility is called for in any case.

Within the Washington Beltway there is bound to be some controversy around the idea of giving Swartz the medal. When he died he was facing federal charges, however I believe there is a general feeling that federal prosecutors overreached and that, overall, Swartz's contributions to the world of online information vastly outweighed any wrong doing. Even the prosecutor in the JSTOR case would have to concede that Swartz was motivated by the idea of making more information available to the public and not by personal gain. Despite any possible controversy the American Library Association has given Aaron the James Madison Award.

It may take years to unravel all of the facts of Aaron's case, however as a gesture of good will, in recognition of Aaron Swartz's tireless work for the internet community, President Obama should put Swartz first on the list for the Citizens Medal.

If you are a US Citizen, please sign the We the People petition and urge the President to do the right thing.
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