A fake email that appeared to be sent by President L. Rafael Reif addressing all of MIT was sent to all MIT dorms around 1 a.m. early Wednesday morning, announcing that all classes would be cancelled that day, due to “threatening requests” regarding the Swartz case. The email followed a letter from Reif on Tuesday to the MIT community laying out the Institute’s plans for releasing evidence from the Swartz case.
The email was in fact a “joke” email sent by Delian T. Asparouhov ’15, impersonating sender and recipient information in the email header.
Some students believed the email at first, which listed Reif as the sender and “allmit” (a mailing list addressing all of campus) as the recipient. However, the hoax became clear as the same email began to flood inboxes, and subjects lines contained the names of dormitory mailing lists, indicating that it had really been sent to each dorm and not to all of MIT.
In a phone interview with The Tech, Asparouhov said, “Sorry, that email from Rafael Reif was really from me. I was just trying to joke around, and did not mean to bring in such a serious matter like Aaron Swartz. Sorry, just a kid messing around.”
The email was sent over 100 times to some recipients by a script written by Asparouhov. Asparouhov said that he only sent the email once, but he left his script up and visits from others triggered the rest of the emails. “The mistake that I made was that I put it up on my scripts account. What I did stupidly was that I left that script there, and people were going to that page and refreshing that page,” Asparouhov said. “By the time I shut it down over 100 emails had been sent.”
A few hours later, Asparouhov posted an apology on his blog, saying “I’d like to apologize for the damage I caused to the MIT community, especially in light of the recent events that have caused large amounts of strife, which I only added to.”
He later added, “I should have never written the email, and especially not sent it out to the entire school.”
MIT Vice President and Secretary of the Corporation Kirk Kolenbrander sent an email to the MIT community shortly after 4 a.m. confirming that the email was not sent by President L. Rafael Reif and that classes would proceed as scheduled that day.
There has not been any disciplinary action taken by MIT.