Digital Activist Aaron Swartz Dead At 26

Digital activist and early employee at Reddit, Aaron Swartz, committed suicide in New York on January 11. He was 26.

Swartz was a fiery proponent of Internet freedom and the founder of He was a co-creator of the RSS 1.0 standard and was a co-founder at Reddit. He writes about his career here.

Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing wrote a beautiful eulogy to the young man who, at the age of 14, surprised his computing peers by organizing the RSS 1.0 working group. Wrote Doctorow:

I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15. He was working on XML stuff (he co-wrote the RSS specification when he was 14) and came to San Francisco often, and would stay with Lisa Rein, a friend of mine who was also an XML person and who took care of him and assured his parents he had adult supervision. 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.

Schwartz was in the news in 2011 for taking 4 million documents from JSTOR, an online aggregator of scientific journals. The U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts charged him with computer fraud to which he plead not guilty. He also “completed a fellowship at Harvard’s Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption,” according to the MIT Tech.

It is always tragic when one of our own dies and it is made even more tragic when they choose suicide rather than help. The life of the mind is a glorious place but, as Doctorow writes, now “if he was lonely, he will never again be embraced by his friends.” We are all in this together and help can cope in many forms (Reddit, The Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and those close to you).

But rather than dwell on what went wrong, it is right to celebrate this young man’s accomplishments and mourn his passing. He was a friend to many of us and will be missed.

Memories and donations can be sent at His parents and partner posted a remembrance here.

[Image via Wikipedia]