Internet activist, co-creator of Reddit, and founder of Demand Progress, Aaron Swartz committed suicide today in New York City, according to a report from MIT's The Tech. Swartz was 26.
Swartz rose to fame at the age of 14 after helping to author the first specification of Rich Site Summer (RSS). He also helped create Reddit, and founded Demand Progress, an organization that had a key role in the anti-SOPA movement.
In July 2011, Swartz was indicted for allegedly attempting to steal the JSTOR archives from the MIT network and make them public. He was facing 50 years in prison at the time of his death.
Update: Aaron Swartz's family releases official statement:
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.
Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
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.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
Swartz's funeral will be held on Tuesday, January 15 at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois. For remembrances of Aaron and to make a donation in his memory, visit RememberAaron.com.