demand progress!

Jan 11, 2022 by

David Segal,

2:22 PM (16 minutes ago)



Today we mark the anniversary of the passing of our co-founder Aaron Swartz, who took his own life nine years ago while, unbelievably, under indictment for allegedly having downloaded too many academic articles from the JSTOR cataloging service — to which he had a subscription — using the open network at MIT.

Aaron was a tremendous activist and technologist, who fought for economic justice and for speech and human rights. You can read more about him and his work here.

Each year we use this date to take a beat and reflect upon our work, and hope that Aaron would be proud of what we’ve accomplished. Over the last year or so we have helped push back against outsized corporate power, sought to compel the adoption of policies that would help reclaim the promise of the early internet, sought to achieve an end to the “endless” wars, and more. Some of that is discussed in more detail below.

But Demand Progress wasn’t Aaron’s only important project at the time of his passing — far from it. I asked Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation — which stewards another of Aaron’s projects, now called SecureDrop — to provide us with an update. The SecureDrop system enables the work of investigative journalists who are challenging corporate and government power throughout the world. Here’s what Trevor had to say:

“I will always be honored that Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) was entrusted with the last project Aaron was working on before he tragically passed away: an open-source whistleblower submission system that could better protect journalists and their sources from surveillance and other digital security threats.

In 2012, with the late James Dolan and reporter Kevin Poulsen, Aaron built a prototype, which was then called DeadDrop. In the fall of 2013, FPF officially took over the GitHub repo and poured all of our resources into making it into a viable tool for news outlets.

We renamed it SecureDrop, but the spirit of everything Aaron built remains. At the time, one news outlet was trying it out. Today, over 70 major news outlets from around the world use SecureDrop, including the New York Times, Washington Post, ProPublica, and Associated Press.

SecureDrop is available in 20 languages and at least a dozen FPF staffers work on improving the system daily, and on training and supporting the news organizations that use it. We could not be more proud to carry on Aaron’s legacy.”

Journalism and the media ecosystem are under threat across the globe, through corporate concentration, a collapse in revenues, and authoritarian crackdowns — including the United States’s prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for using tools similar to SecureDrop. Aaron would be thrilled to know that his efforts are helping to enable the work of those serious journalists who remain on the beat.

And we also hope he’d take pride in the work Demand Progress has accomplished over the last year or so, some of which we outline below.

-David and the Demand Progress team.

P.S. If you would like to support our work as we carry these fights into 2022, please click here.

We have fought for an Open Internet by:

  • Ushering along legislation to constrain the power of the large tech monopolies.
  • Ensuring that allies were installed at important agencies like the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission.
  • Identifying and leveraging opportunities to forward net neutrality, privacy regulations, and other rules that will shape the Internet so it better-enables speech and democracy.

We have advocated for progressive governance by:

  • Organizing to elevate progressive decision makers to highest echelons of the Biden administration — and to keep corporatists out of posts that are in charge of regulating Wall Street and large corporations and that govern economic policy.
  • Training hundreds of progressives who want to work in government, more than 100 of whom have found such jobs in the executive branch and Congress.

We have fought for progressive foreign and national security policy by:

  • Pushing for the installation of progressives in relevant posts in the administration — and against those who by default turn to militarism.
  • Urging an end to the war in Afghanistan, and to U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
  • Advocating for the U.S. to play a meaningful role in global pandemic relief by expanding access to vaccines and ensuring poorer countries are able to finance health and economic responses.
  • Opposing secret law and mass government surveillance — and exploitation of the events of January 6th to empower the national security apparatus.

We have pushed for better, and more transparent, governance by:

  • Helping to advance efforts to increase diversity of Congressional staff.
  • Making sure Congress uses tools like remote deliberations so the government can function during the pandemic.
  • Providing oversight of the Capitol Police, and seeking accountability for those who perpetrated January 6th while advocating for a publicly accessible Congress.
  • Advocating for legislation to improve public access to a variety of government records, from legal opinions, to Congressional reports, to improving FOIA.
  • Helping create an office that enables the work of government and corporate whistleblowers.

Thank you for taking a moment to remember Aaron with us, to consider his legacy, and to learn more about the work we carry forth in his name.

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