Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz dies at 26
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Aaron Swartz, an Internet genius who helped deliver new Web content to users by co-developing Reddit and RSS before becoming a digital activist, has committed suicide. He was 26.
Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner, told AFP that Swartz had hanged himself and was pronounced dead late Friday in the city’s Brooklyn borough.
At the time of his death, Swartz, who had gone on to press for free public access to Web content, was just weeks away from being put on trial on accusations of stealing millions of scientific and literary journal articles from the subscription-only JSTOR service.
He faced decades in prison and US$1 million in fines if convicted.
Following the activist’s 2011 arrest in Boston, his anti-censorship group Demand Progress said the prosecution “makes no sense”.
“It’s like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library,” the group’s executive director David Segar said then.
The hacktivist’s family and friends placed some of the blame for his suicide on prosecutors and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Swartz made the JSTOR download using a laptop he placed in a utility closet.
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” they said in a public statement.
“Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office and at MIT contributed to his death.”