Aaron Swartz was a computer prodigy. He was an educator. He was a passionate advocate for Internet freedom. And in the prime of his life, Aaron committed suicide:
“After emerging as a pioneer of Internet activism, education, and politics, he was indicted on multiple federal charges in 2011 and 2012, setting off a complex chain of events that left the Internet community reeling. Shortly thereafter, at the age of 26, Swartz was found dead of an apparent suicide in his Brooklyn apartment. His family, friends, and supporters immediately blamed the prosecutors of the case, who aimed to put him in jail for 35 years and brand him a convicted felon for life. Swartz was persecuted for the very rights and freedoms for which he stood, and that ultimately broke him.”
The Internet’s Own Boy
A new documentary about Aaron premiered recently at the Sundance Film Festival, offering a look into the life of this compelling and innovative young man. A year after his death, the film explores Aaron’s work to bring online freedom to the world. Combining home video and interviews with those close to Swartz, the documentary attempts to showcase his work to keep the Internet open and free.
Piya Sinha-Roy writing for Reuters notes that Aaron’s family was in attendance for the screening at Sundance, and still feel the sting of Aaron’s passing:
“It’s unbelievably hard for us, but Aaron is dead, there’s nothing we can do about that,” Swartz’s father told the audience, saying he hoped the film would raise awareness of Aaron’s activism and encourage others to fight on his behalf.
Sinha-Roy also details some of Swartz’s legal troubles, including the multitude of federal indictments against him, which many think were used to try to make an example of Swartz.
Professor Lawrence Lessig, a close personal friend and colleague of Aaron Swartz, as well as a legal scholar on issues of the internet, began a march in New Hampshire on the anniversary of Aaron’s suicide. Lessig’s march is an effort to raise awareness around the corrupting influence of money in politics and public policy. Lessig says it was Swartz who convinced him that no progress could be made on issues important to voters until the current political donation system was reformed.
Aaron was a courageous and dangerous thinker. Here’s hoping this documentary and the efforts of his friends, family and supporters keep his work alive.