Co-Founder Of Reddit And Internet Activist Aaron Swartz Dies At 26
Aaron Swartz, computer programmer, a co-owner of Reddit, and internet activist was found dead Friday in his Brooklyn, NY apartment, the apparent result of a suicide by hanging. He was 26.
At the time of his death, Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines on charges that he illegally downloaded close to five million files off of JSTOR, a website that distributes scholarly journals and publications.
Swartz had been battling depression for a lengthy period of time, even more so with the impending trial scheduled to begin in April. "Go outside and get some fresh air or cuddle with a loved one and you don’t feel any better, only more upset at being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel," he wrote in a 2007 blog post. “Everything gets colored by the sadness.”
Swartz, who at the age of 14 helped create the program to deliver continuous news to readers known as RSS, had performed similar acts before in an effort to bring information to the masses. In 2009, he created a program that was able to download 20 million pages of documents from free library accounts for PACER, a database of electronic court records. The government investigated the incident but did not prosecute.
JSTOR was different. While the database itself did not wish to prosecute, the government did. "Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars," said Carmen M. Ortiz, a United States attorney prosecuting the case, reports the L.A. Times. "It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away."
Swartz also co-founded Demand Progress, an organization dedicated to fighting for social justice. "He was a communitarian, somebody who was deeply aware of our world’s injustices and who understood the constant struggle that is necessary to even begin to remedy them," the organization said in a statement on their website. "That’s why this organization exists."
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