“The Brilliant Mind, Righteous Heart of Aaron Swartz Will Be Missed”
Chris Hayes
January 13, 2013
[Heavily edited by Alexandra Bruce]

Aaron Swartz has died of suicide at age 26. His body was found in his apartment last Friday. Aaron’s achievements during his short life were staggering. At the age of 14, he co-developed RSS, the Really Simple Syndication web protocol that is the key component of much of the web’s entire publishing infrastructure.

By 19, he’d co-founded a company that would merge with Reddit, a user-generated social news site that is now one of the most highly-trafficked news sites in the world. He founded Demand Progress, which was instrumental in fights to keep the Internet open and free, and in the battle to defeat SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.

He developed the architecture for the Creative Commons licensing system and in 2010 he was made a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Center for Ethics.

Aaron also suffered from depression.

At the time of his death, Aaron was being prosecuted by the federal government and threatened with up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines for the crime of — no exaggeration — downloading too many free articles from the online database of scholarly work,

He used his hacking skills to download these files more quickly – and despite JSTOR’s declining to press charges or pursue prosecution, federal prosecutors hit Aaron with a staggering 13-count felony indictment.

In a statement about his death, Aaron’s family and partner wrote:

“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.”

His death is a good reason to revisit the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the law under which he was prosecuted, since it is far too broad. It is also a good idea to take a hard look at Massachusetts Federal Attorney, Carmen Ortiz, whose office prosecuted Aaron with such recklessly disproportionate vigor, and who is reportedly considering a run for governor.

It is hard to fathom what Aaron may have continued to contribute to society had he not been bullied to death by the US Government.

Aaron’s brilliant mind, his righteous heart and his sensitive soul will be sorely missed by us all, though many did not even know of him.


Aaron Swartz Keynote Speech “How we stopped SOPA”
F2C:Freedom to Connect 2012
Washington, DC
May 21 2012

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