MIT to investigate role in Reddit co-creator Aaron Swartz's death


The campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT will investigate its role in the death of internet activist and Reddit co-creator Aaron Swartz.


Joe Raedle

BOSTON, United States — The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's president announced on Sunday that the university would launch a "thorough analysis" of the role MIT played in Aaron Swartz's death.

Swartz, a co-creator of Reddit and an internet activist, committed suicide on Friday. He was due to stand trial in April for mass-downloading subscription-based documents from MIT's network, according to The Boston Globe.

On Monday, the Justice Department dropped its charges against Swartz, due to his death. The Hill reported the action is standard when someone dies.

Swartz had faced up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The New York Times noted that friends and family said the prospect of these punishments haunted Swartz for two years and ultimately led to his suicide.

More on GlobalPost: Aaron Swartz, Reddit co-creator and internet activist, dead at 26

"Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death," his family said, in a statement released on Saturday before the charges were dismissed.

"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."

JSTOR, the database which Swartz was accused of downloading from, said in a statement that it had settled its own claims against him in June 2011. It said that he had returned the data, and it regretted being brought into the federal case against Swartz, according to Bloomberg.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote in a letter to the university, "It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy."

"Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT," he wrote, according to The Globe.

Reif called for an investigation into the options MIT had and the decisions it made in the case.

More on GlobalPost: Aaron Swartz's family: Decisions by MIT, Massachusetts Attorney contributed to his death