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Internet Activist Aaron Swartz, 26, Apparent Suicide




(Photo: Fred Benenson/Wikimedia)

The New York Times and other sources report today that Aaron Swartz, a co-founder of the social news site Reddit, was found hanged in his Brooklyn apartment. “At 14,” the Times noted, “Mr. Swartz helped create RSS, the nearly ubiquitous tool that allows users to subscribe to online information.”

The 26-year-old computer prodigy was under federal indictment for hacking into JSTOR, an online academic resource whose materials are available on a subscription-only basis, and making nearly its entire library of literary and scientific articles available to the public.

At the time of his death Swartz was awaiting trial and faced up to 35 years in prison. (In 2009, Swartz hacked into the U.S. government’s PACER system, which tracks federal court cases, and made available online millions of its documents. He was not charged in that incident.)

In a September 15, 2011 Frying Pan News post, Maria Bustillos wrote, “Swartz is a committed and gratifyingly noisy champion of the free Internet and open access movements who has motivated and helped to engage tens of thousands of young people.”

As of this posting, Swartz’s Web site was still up, along with this description of its creator:

Aaron Swartz is the founder of Demand Progress, which launched the campaign against the Internet censorship bills (SOPA/PIPA) and now has over a million members. He is also a Contributing Editor to The Baffler and on the Council of Advisors to The Rules.

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