Very sad. In 2005 I was on a panel on “eDemocracy: The Role of Blogs and Online Activitists in 2004” at Stanford University. The youngest member was a dynamic, highly eloquent, teen named Aaron Swartz, who became an online activist and a kind of Internet pioneer. Now the news comes that Swartz has committed suicide, at 26:
Aaron Swartz, an Internet savant who at a young age shaped the online era by co-developing RSS and Reddit and later became a digital activist, has committed suicide, a relative told CNN Saturday.
He was 26 years old.
A prodigy, Swartz was behind some of the Internet’s iconic moments, soaring to heights that many developers only dream of. At the same time, he was plagued by legal problems arising from his aggressive activism, and he was also known to suffer depression, a personal matter that he publicly revealed on his blog.
He impressed many including…:
Technology activist Cory Doctorow met Swartz when he was 14 or 15, Doctorow said on his blog.
“In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society,” Doctorow wrote.
“But Aaron was also a person who’d had problems with depression for many years,” Doctorow blogged. He added that “whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn’t solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever.”
He most certainly was what in early times people called a “child prodigy,” or at least a teen one:
At age 14, Swartz co-wrote the RSS specification.
He was later admitted to Stanford University, but dropped out after a year because, as he wrote in a blog post, “I didn’t find it a very intellectual atmosphere, since most of the other kids seemed profoundly unconcerned with their studies.”
What he did next was help develop Reddit, the social news website that was eventually bought by heavyweight publisher Conde Nast in 2006.
Swartz then engaged in Internet digital activism, co-founding Demand Progress, a political action group that campaigns against Internet censorship.
But he pushed the legal limits, allegedly putting him on the wrong side of the law.
In 2011, he was arrested in Boston for alleged computer fraud and illegally obtaining documents from protected computers. He was later indicted from an incident in which he allegedly stole millions of online documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He pleaded not guilty in September, according to MIT’s “The Tech” newspaper.
Two years earlier, the FBI investigated him after he released millions of U.S. federal court documents online. The alleged hacking was significant because the documents came from the government-run Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, which typically charges a fee, which was 8 cents a page in 2009.
The CNN piece notes that Swartz suffered from depression and had long battled it.
A post he did in 2005 after appearing at the seminar.
And it’s big news on Google News.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.