Former Reddit co-owner and founder of DemandProgress, Aaron Swartz committed suicide at the age of 26 in New York City yesterday, according to reports by The Tech. Swartz had been battling criminal charges related to his attempts to make JSTOR archives public and had been facing up to 50 years in prison and $4 million dollars in fines at the time of his death.
In addition to becoming an early co-owner of Reddit when his company Infogami was bought by the mammoth-to-be, Swartz also co-authored the RSS 1.0 specifications at the age of 14, and founded Demand Progress, a key player in last year’s battle against SOPA.
Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow, a friend of Swartz’s eulogized him this morning on the website, saying the following:
I’m so sorry for Aaron, and sorry about Aaron. My sincere condolences to his parents, whom I never met, but who loved their brilliant, magnificently weird son and made sure he always had chaperonage when he went abroad on his adventures. My condolences to his friends, especially Quinn and Lisa, and the ones I know and the ones I don’t, and to his comrades at DemandProgress. To the world: we have all lost someone today who had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.
Update: This is kind of spooky; you can read Swartz’s will on his website.
Update 2: Aaron’s family and partner have released a statement regarding Aaron’s death:
Our beloved brother, son, friend, and partner Aaron Swartz hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn apartment. We are in shock, and have not yet come to terms with his passing.
Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable-these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.
Today, we grieve for the extraordinary and irreplaceable man that we have lost.
If you struggle with suicidal thoughts please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.