The social news and entertainment website lost one of its co-founders – Aaron H. Swartz. The 26-year-old programming genius was discovered dead in his New York City dwelling. His apparent suicide was over his recent arrest and possible conviction of stealing MIT records.
Aaron H. Swartz, known as a prolific hacker and co-founder the highly popular Reddit.com social news site, was found dead in his New York home on Friday, January 11, 2013. The 26-year-old Internet activist had been indicted by a federal grand jury in July 2011 and was accused of hacking the MIT JSTOR database. He was also accused of stealing approximately four million MIT documents from the site with the intent to distribute them over the Internet.
When Swartz appeared in court on Sept. 24, 2012, he pled not guilty. If a jury had found him guilty on all charges, he was facing some $4 million in fines and two life sentences in a federal prison.
His family and friends knew Swartz as a programming genius and a very kind person. In addition to helping co-found the popular Reddit.com news site, he also helped write the highly popular RSS 1.0 specification when he was only 14 years of age. In his adult life, Swartz became somewhat of an Internet activist and as a driving figure behind stopping the SOPA and PIPA censorship bills that went before Congress.
Swartz was also highly involved with the on-line Avaaz Foundation civic group, which pioneered Internet activism often time referred to as ‘clicktivism’. The Avaaz group, which began in 2007, was highly active in promoting human rights, combating poverty and ending regional conflicts in third world nations. In just five years' time, the group became the most powerful on-line activist network of its type.
"Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing”, writes Schwartz’s family, in part, in a recent public address. "Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished principles."
For those who knew Aaron and the things he did for the community, along with opening up the Internet's real potential in regards to news and freedom of information, this is very sad news.