Internet activist Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 12 2013 5:15 PM

Internet Activist Aaron Swartz, Reddit and RSS Pioneer, Commits Suicide at 26

1358028814445
Aaron Swartz spent much of his young life advocating for the free sharing of data and information online

Fred Benenson /www.fredbenenson.com / Creative Commons

Aaron Swartz, one of the best-known Ineternet activists, who played a key role in creating Reddit and was one of the co-developers of the RSS specification, was found dead Friday in New York. The 26-year-old appears to have hanged himself, reports the New York Times. At his young age, Swartz was long a legendary figure in Internet circles considering he helped create RSS, the tool used to subscribe to information online, at 14. Swartz also played a key role in developing the website Reddit, but left after it was purchased by Conde Nast. He went on to co-found a non-profit group that played a key role in campaigning against an anti-piracy bill in Congress, notes Reuters.

Swartz’s campaigns to make information freely available had turned him into an “Internet folk hero,” as theTimes notes. But in July 2011 he was indicted on federal charges for illegally downloading almost 5 million academic articles from JSTOR, a subscription service. The trial was set to start in April and he faced as many as 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

Advertisement

Since his death, several moving tributes have been posted for the young man many considered a friend and inspiration. Larry Lessig, a Harvard professor and a founder of Creative Commons, published a moving blog post in which he directly blames the pending case against Swartz, saying he was “driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying.” In BoingBoing Cory Doctorow writes about Swartz and praises his many accomplishments, noting that while there's lots of speculation now that Swartz feared going to jail he "was also a person who'd had problems with depression for many years."

In the Nation, Rick Perlstein also writes a moving tribute:

I remember always thinking that he always seemed too sensitive for this world we happen to live in, and I remember him working so mightily, so heroically, to try to bend the world into a place more hospitable to people like him, which also means hospitable to people like us.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 6:23 PM Bryan Cranston Reenacts Baseball’s Best Moments to Promote the Upcoming Postseason
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.