Monday, January 14, 2013

News: Reddit Co-Founder Commits Suicide

Aaron Swartz, a leading activist of open access and copyright reform, committed suicide Friday January 11th in New York City.

Swartz was the founder of Demand Progress, which launched the campaign against the SOPA/PIPA censorship bills (SOPA/PIPA) and a co-founder of Infogami, which merged with the internet aggregator Reddit,. He first entered the public limelight with his involvement in the standardization of RSS in 2001 as a ninth-grader. Most of his too-short twenty-six years of life were devoted to creating a more open web. Swartz's essays, which he posted to his blog, were a staple of many young programmers' introduction to internet culture. His posts included "Who Writes Wikipedia?" and "How To Get a Job Like Mine."

His framework for web servers,, was first released in 2006 when Reddit switched from Lisp to Python and continues to be actively used and updated. In a 2008 attempt to make a public version of the contents of the PACER public court records database, Swartz angered government officials when they learned he had downloaded 20 million articles, which he subsequently made freely available. In 2011, he was controversially indicted for data theft for downloading large amounts from the academic article repository JSTOR. Despite JSTOR's reassurance that they had "no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter," the case continued with additional charges, for which Swartz could potentially have been imprisoned for 50+ years. (A sentence Lawrence Lessig bemoans.) He pled innocent in September of 2012. Many will contend that Aaron Swartz died innocent.

RIP, Aaron Swartz

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