Aaron Swartz, 26, a very talented programmer was found dead in his New York apartment, apparent cause of death was suicide. Aaron was a gifted programmer who had helped astonishing number of technological causes including building and developing Reddit.
For those who don’t know Aaron Swartz is the one of the key person(s) behind creating RSS which now enables millions of blogs and news site to share articles easily and consistently to their readers. RSS is the reason why there are such loyal readers for every Internet weblogs and news sites. He accomplished this feat of being part of creating RSS at the age of 14. Read his blog to for some really interesting posts and his twitter.
His uncle earlier written and told public about his clinical depression and suicidal thoughts at his very young age. His uncle had said “.. (Aaron) looked at the world, and had a certain logic in his brain, and the world didn’t necessarily fit in with that logic, and that was sometimes difficult”
At the age of 14, he started this journey and never looked back. Swartz has been credited as having a very deep role in development of Creative Commons copyright licenses, helped defeat legislative overreach of SOPA law and also has actively been named in being one of the technological activists. He became a Internet hero when he started the movement to push many web files for free and open to public. But in July 2011, JSTOR ( a subscription-only service for distributing literary and scientific journals) charged him for gaining illegal access to their content and downloading 4.8 million articles and documents ( nearly their complete online library ). He was accused of downloading all this content on a laptop. While doing this and making the JSTOR archives free to public access, he broke in computer networks at MIT to hide the laptop in the university network under a false account. When caught he turned over his harddrive which contained 4.8 million documents, and JSTOR declined to pursue the case but US attorney kept pressing and saying ‘stealing is stealing’ and so he was indicted with federal charges. Charges on this case, included wire fraud and computer fraud which were pending at the time of his death. These charged carried a potential penalty up to 35 years and $1 million in fines.
These federal charges and clinical depression are presumed to be the apparent reason of his suicide.
Along with working to build and develop Reddit as we know, he also co-founded Demand progress, a group that promotes online campaigns on social justice issues. He also helped Wikipedia as being a editor for some time and later analyzed the articles on Wikipedia which helped them develop a metric system which is the reason why the articles on Wikipedia are quick, helpful and always updated.
It is very sad that people are assuming Aaron Swartz killed himself just because he was worried about going to prison for the next 35 years. Even though being imprisoned is a very terrifying with the thought of losing complete control and freedom of your life, and violent prison stories we have heard. All this is very scary for any person. But Aaron was a person who might in his hindsight knew about what he could face because of this internet activity which is deemed as being a cyber criminal activity. This might be the reason of his problem with depression as his uncle and himself made it public a few times in past. I know I am in no position to make a statement or an assumption of his mental state but depression might have been his reason of suicide and not the fear of being prosecuted. One thing we should all learn from this is, whatever problems you face in life which make you think you should end your life should be handled differently. Killing won’t solve the problem you left behind, it just keeps it stuck there unsolved for everyone. We all have friends, and some are very close. At some stage of life we all face depression for some reason or the other, its how you look at it. I myself have faced depression and been on that phase for really long time. Its difficult to talk about it to anyone but you need to be strong and fight it yourself. Sooner you realize how important you are to everyone, the faster you start moving on and ahead in life. When in despair talk to your friends if you want, the hope and living people around you can change the way you think and live. I feel sorry for Aaron and its very hurtful to hear anyone who commits suicide for some battle they are fighting. My sincere condolences to his family and his closed ones who are deeply affected by his dead. I respect him for what he was and what he did as a Internet activist.
We lost someone today who was part of a revolution because of which we can speak freely on internet and one of the reasons why you are reading this very post. His steps, actions and activities would never be forgotten. Thank you for making the world a bit better than what it was.
Goodbye Aaron.Image Credit : By Daniel J. Sieradski (Flickr: Aaron Swartz) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons