Aaron Swartz was a brilliant computer programmer and activist who helped develop the RSS news feed protocol, co-founded Reddit, developed the web.py framework, and helped shape the Creative Commons licensing system.
At fourteen he was authoring documents for the World Wide Web Consortium. At fifteen he was working alongside the likes of Tim Berners-Lee and Lawrence Lessig. He created watchdog sites to keep an eye on political and academic corruption, he helped derail the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), he downloaded and freed to the public millions of documents, and he created a system that allowed anonymous informants to send documents to the media.
But at the age of 26 he was dead.
Aaron Swartz took his life on the January 11th 2013 after being hounded by the FBI and the Department of Justice of the USA for doing, to all practical effects, nothing wrong. He was accused of 13 crimes and faced 35 years in prison for something that, as was later proven, was not illegal at all.
The level of deliberate spite in his persecution, orchestrated by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (who had already had Aaron in its crosshairs for some time), hell-bent on making an example out of the hacker, reached absurd proportions pushing him to suicide.
Now you can see the story of Aaron and the sad, outrageous events that led to his death in the film “The Internet’s Own Boy”. The film was financed by crowdfunding on Kickstarter and is fittingly released under a CC commons license. You can download it from the Internet Archive (another institution that benefited from Aaron’s disinterested help) or watch it online on YouTube.
The gross injustice executed on Aaron deprived the world of a brilliant mind and a committed activist who worked selflessly in pro of social justice.
Be ready to be outraged.