Aaron Swartz

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Aaron H. Swartz (1986 – 2013) was an Internet entrepreneur, programmer, civil activist, and co-creator of Reddit.[1] Swartz was notable for his achievements with the RSS Standard, and the creation of widely used web framework, web.py. He also founded the organization, Demand Progress, notable for it's work against SOPA and other copyright organizations. On January 6, 2013, Swartz was arrested in connection with the illegal downloading and sharing of hundreds of thousands of academic documents from JSTOR, to protest the highly exclusive nature of the academic world. Swartz had opposed the practice of compensating big businesses and corporations for the works, instead of the authors, through the fees exacted on its users, mostly poorer academics. On January 11, it was found that Mr. Swartz had hung himself in his apartment.[2]

Life and Works

Aaron Swartz was born in Chicago, to Susan and Robert Swartz. When he was 13, he won the ArsDigital prize, a prize for creative, non-profit web sites, for his work with Creative Commons. At the age of 14, he was actively coordinating with experts in the field, to create RSS. Swartz attended North Shore Country School, a private school in Winnetka.

Creation of Reddit

Aaron Swartz attended Harvard, but dropped out after a year, instead creating the company Infogami. While originally, it was struggling with methods to raise funds, it's backers, suggested that it merge with Reddit, which it did in 2005. Under Swartz, Reddit exploded exponentially, and became one of the most popular social networking sites. In late 2006, the site was sold to Conde Nast Publications. During this time, he also created web.py, a popular, open source web framework, and was also involved with social activism, demanding greater rights to the people, versus the corporation.

Stop Online Piracy Act

Swartz and his foundation, Demand Progress, was highly involved in the protests against SOPA.


Aaron Swartz was a prolific contributor to Wikipedia, and was involved in high level decisions. In 2006, he ran for the Wikimedia Board of Directors, unsuccessfully. Swartz was also supportive of a more open editing environment, citing the fact that the vast majority of the content at Wikipedia is created by "drive by editors". It formed part of his bid to Wikimedia's board of directors.

JSTOR Charges

On July 19, 2011, Aaron Swartz was charged by Carmen Ortiz (a United States attorney), for wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully accessing a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer (JSTOR declined to pursue the case [3]). This was due to Swartz attaching a laptop computer, to the MIT network, and using it's internal LAN to download a large number of papers, with the intent of making it available on publicly accessible websites, such as The Pirate Bay. The government prosecution argued that what Swartz did was indeed stealing.

Stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.

At trial, he faced a total of 35 years imprisonment.[4]


On January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn, apartment by his partner.[5] A spokesperson from the Coroners office stated that he had hung himself. Swartz's funeral services were scheduled for January 15, 2013, at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois.

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