MIT’s efforts to track down Aaron Swartz, while under intense pressure from JSTOR, the not-for-profit that ran the journal database [he was accused of downloading millions of articles from], eventually would lead to felony computer crimes charges that might have brought years in jail. Swartz, 26, was under indictment when he committed suicide in January 2013.

Critics, both on campus and around the world, have accused MIT of abandoning its values celebrating inventive risk-taking by helping to doom a young man whose project — likely an act of civil disobedience to make information freely available — didn’t in the...

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