Aaron Swartz the American computer programmer, blazing intellect & Internet activist was found hanged in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn apartment. It’s been four days after the death of Aaron Swartz millions of strangers on the Internet are still mourning as if some essential part of them has died. For those of you who do notknow about this digital innovator, this is a short recap of an era that has passed away:
Swartz was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 8, 1986. His father founded a software company, and from a young age Swartz was interested in computing. At the age of 14 Swartz was a member of the RSS-DEV Working Group that co-authored the "RSS 1.0" specification of RSS. Swartz attended Stanford University, but left after just one year & founded the software company Infogami, a company that merged with Reddit in its early days, through which he became an equal owner of the merged company. Swartz was significantly involved with a campaign to prevent the passing of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill that sought to monitor the Internet for copyright violations and would have made it easier for the U.S. government to shut down websites accused of violating copyright. These were his words in a speech in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2012:
“There's a battle going on right now, a battle to define everything that happens on the internet in terms of traditional things that the law understands... [Under SOPA], new technology, instead of bringing us greater freedom, would have snuffed out fundamental rights we'd always taken for granted.”
In late 2010 and early 2011, Swartz downloaded about 4 million of JSTOR's collection of academic journal articles — which provides a limited number of articles to students and researchers free of charge. Swartz was a faculty member at Harvard University which provided him with a JSTOR account. Over the course of a few weeks, he downloaded the documents from a network wiring closet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, in the process, crashed some of JSTOR's servers. On January 6, 2011, as a result of a federal investigation, Swartz was arrested in connection with systematic downloading of academic journal articles from JSTOR. Swartz opposed JSTOR's practice of compensating publishers, rather than authors, out of the fees it charges for access to articles. Swartz contended that JSTOR's fees limited access to academic work produced at American colleges and universities. Swartz, if convicted, would have faced a maximum of $1 million in fines.
On the morning of January 11, 2013, Swartz was found dead in his Crown Heights, Brooklyn, apartment by his girlfriend. Swartz's funeral services were held on January 15, 2013, at Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park, Illinois. Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web and perhaps Swartz's most admired role-model, delivered a eulogy at the service.
Supporters of Swartz responded with an effort called #pdftribute to promote Open Access, a cause Swartz had long supported. Members of Anonymous hacked a website on MIT's domain, replacing the title page with a tribute to Swartz, calling on members of the internet community to use Aaron's death as a rallying moment for the open access movement. The banner included a list of demands for improvements in the US copyright system, and included an essay attributed to Aaron, entitled Guerilla Open Access Manifesto. Within three days, more than 30,000 people signed an online petition to the White House calling for the removal of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, "for overreach in the case of Aaron Swartz."
This is how an era of activism ended & Aaron Shwatz left the world trying to make it a better free place to live in.
"Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves," ... "We need to take information and share with the world."