Digital Rights Activist and Hacker Aaron Swartz Found Dead

by Admin on January 14, 2013

Reddit co-founder, RSS co-author and digital rights activist Aaron Swartz, 26, committed suicide in his New York City apartment on Friday.

Swartz created the website Demand Progress following the introduction of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), in an effort to raise awareness of the issue. SOPA would have shaped Internet censorship, affecting popular websites such as YouTube, news aggregating channels, and other sites that allow users to view and download copyrighted material.  Swartz’ protest of SOPA went viral, and the internet activist has since been considered a force in preserving online rights.

In 2011, Swartz was charged with felony hacking and accused of stealing millions of documents from JSTOR, MIT’s online academic research database. Swartz pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included wire fraud, computer fraud and “unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer” in September of 2012. He faced a potential prison sentence of up to 35 years.

JSTOR later dropped its charges, but the U.S. Attorney’s office decided to pursue the case anyway. In fact, JSTOR recently had opened its “Register & Read” archive to the public, giving anyone access to almost 1,200 articles from 700 publishers. 

An online petition with over 10,000 signatures is circulating to remove the prosecuting U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz for overreaching in the case, “for an alleged crime that the supposed victims did not wish to prosecute.”

Swartz also developed the site theinfo.org, which gives free access to public records, co-founded the Creative Commons, and was a member of the Harvard University Ethics Center Lab. He also openly criticized U.S. President Obama’s rumored “kill-list.”

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