Tech World Saddened By Death Of Reddit Co-Founder, Aaron Swartz
On January 12, 2013, Aaron Swartz was found dead, by suicide. A spokeswoman for New York’s medical examiners says Swartz hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment.
Aaron Swartz was one of three co-founders of the famous online portal known as Reddit, a social news website that serves as an online meeting grounds for an eclectic group of internet aficionados and casual internet surfers across the world.
Swartz can be considered a boy genius, who helped create RSS at the age of 14. Soon afterward, he co-founded Reddit with two others and also directed the political group known as DemandProgress.org to fight against SOPA and internet censorship. He was an activist who believed in freedom of internet speech, activity, and education.
Swartz also had battled depression for years, said his friend Cory Doctorow, the novelist and blogger. In a 2007 blog post, Swartz wrote: “Surely there have been times when you’ve been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. … You feel worthless. … depressed mood is like that, only it doesn’t come for any reason and it doesn’t go for any either.“
In 2011, Swartz was arrested in Boston for stealing millions of journals from JSTOR at MIT, with the intent to distribute it among the public freely. Swartz pleaded not guilty and his federal trial for fraud was to be set in February 2013. If found guilty of these multiple felony charges, Swartz could have faced decades in prison, possibly up to 35 years.
Some speculate that the possibility of serving such a sentence in jail exacerbated his current depression symptoms. Regardless, he is hailed as a martyr for education and freedom and has a loyal online following that mourns his death.
In a statement, the Swartz family expressed not only their grief over Aaron’s death, but anger toward federal prosecutors who had been pursuing the case in Massachusetts against him.
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” the statement from his family and girlfriend said.
Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, faculty director for Safra Center for Ethics where Swartz was once a fellow, wrote: “We need a better sense of justice. … The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a ‘felon.’“
Tim Berners Lee, who is credited as the most important figure in the creation of the World Wide Web, commemorated Swartz in a Twitter post on Saturday.
Aaron dead.World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder.Hackers for right, we are one down.Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.
— Tim Berners-Lee (@timberners_lee) January 12, 2013
His funeral will be held Tuesday at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park, according to his family, who said details, including the time, will be posted on a memorial website.
[Image via peretzp/Flickr]
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