Business, Economics and Jobs

Aaron Swartz, Reddit co-creator and internet activist, dead at 26


Reddit mourns the loss of co-founder Aaron Swartz.



Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit and ardent internet activist, has died after committing suicide in New York City on Friday. He was 26. 

MIT's student newspaper The Tech first broke the news. 

“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true,” Swartz’s attorney Elliot R. Peters confirmed in an email to The Tech.

Swartz was a prolific techie, co-authoring an early version of the now widely-popular RSS at just 14 years old. He went on to co-found Infogami, a website that grew into Reddit, "the front page of the Internet," Gawker reported

"I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15. He was working on XML stuff ... and came to San Francisco often, and would stay with ... a friend of mine," wrote blogger and science-fiction writer Cory Doctorow in a post on Boing Boing in remembrance of Swartz.

"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, like he belonged in the place where your thoughts are what matter, and not who you are or how old you are," he continued.  

He also did a fellowship at Harvard’s Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption, and was a fervent activist for Internet freedom: Swartz founded Demand Progress, a group that campaigns against censorship of the world-wide web, according to CNN

More from GlobalPost: Who Edits Reddit? This guy.

The 26-year-old was arrested in July 2011 for allegedly illegally downloading 4 million articles from MIT via the online journal archive JSTOR to be distributed online for free, ZDNET reported

He pled not guilty to the 13 felony hacking charges against him in September 2012. 

Just two days before his death, JSTOR announced it was making over 4.5 million articles available for free, according to ZDNET. 

Swartz had also hinted that he struggled with depression in a 2007 post on his blog, "Raw Thought," where he wrote: 

I have a lot of illnesses. I don’t talk about it much, for a variety of reasons. I feel ashamed to have an illness. (It sounds absurd, but there still is an enormous stigma around being sick.) I don’t want to use being ill as an excuse. 

[...] Depressed mood is like that, only it doesn’t come for any reason and it doesn’t go for any either. Go outside and get some fresh air or cuddle with a loved one and you don’t feel any better, only more upset at being unable to feel the joy that everyone else seems to feel. Everything gets colored by the sadness.

At best, you tell yourself that your thinking is irrational, that it is simply a mood disorder, that you should get on with your life. But sometimes that is worse. You feel as if streaks of pain are running through your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none. 

Also in 2007, he spoke briefly of his sadness when Reddit was bought by Conde Nast, Gawker reported: 

I was miserable. I couldn't stand San Francisco. I couldn't stand office life. I couldn't stand Wired. I took a long Christmas vacation. I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign.

Here, Swartz explains how he got into defending internet freedom: