Cyber Wunderkind Aaron Swartz Committed Suicide
Aaron Swartz, age 26, an American programmer, political activist, hacktivist, and co-owner of Reddit committed suicide on Friday, January 11th.
At age 14, he participated in the RSS-DEV Working Group and helped to co-authored the "RSS 1.0" specification of RSS, and he built the web.py framework as well as the architecture for the Open Library. Swartz also founded Infogami, which soon merged with Reddit, making him a co-owner. In 2010 Swartz was a member of the Harvard University Center for Ethics, and he cofounded the online group Demand Progress which fought against SOPA.
In a federal investigation, Arron Swartz was arrested for connection with a systematic downloading of academic journals from JSTOR. He was known for being opposed to JSTOR's practices regarding the payment of publishers instead of authors using the article fees. On the morning of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his apartment where he had hanged himself. It is believed that his suicide was a result of the stress of the investigation.
Lawrence Lessig, a friend of Aaron's, stated:
Here is where we need a better sense of justice, and shame. For the outrageousness in this story is not just Aaron. It is also the absurdity of the prosecutor's behavior. From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The "property" Aaron had "stolen," we were told, was worth "millions of dollars" - with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed. Aaron had literally done nothing in his life "to make money." He was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying.
It's always a sad day when the world loses a brilliant mind and personality such as Aaron Swartz.