Activist and Innovator Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide

This morning the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ‘s The Tech reports that computer pioneer and technology activist Aaron H. Swartz committed suicide yesterday in New York City, at the age of twenty six.


Brilliantly gifted (he helped develop the widely-implemented RSS 1.0 specification at the age of 14), Swartz entered the mainstream spotlight in July of 2011 when he was arrested for allegedly stealing over 4 million online documents from MIT and academic publishing repository JSTOR.

Swartz also co-founded the hugely popular Reddit, and in response to legislative attempts to regulate the internet, SOPA and PIPA, he founded to combat internet censorship.

Though neither JSTOR nor MIT wished to see Mr. Swartz prosecuted, US authorities proceeded on their own volition.

The Declaration joins millions of citizens in mourning the tragic, unnecessary death of this brilliant young man, his promising life seemingly cut short by a Federal witch hunt against online activists.

Online activist Asher Wolf posted a poignant tribute to Aaron, which elucidates the grave issues his case and death constitute.

From “In memory of Aaron Swartz”

It is no overstatement to say the survival of our species depends on our ability to share information freely. The corporations and their cronies in government who attempt to crush the ability to share information are a threat to the survival of humanity.

And they must be fought.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the ‘I.P. greed lobby’ has a call to answer, and goddammit, there will be retribution.

Aaron’s death must not be in vain.

Link to everything. Post all the articles. Laugh in the face of those who try to lock up information.

Share everything.

Share, copy, remix.

Asher’s piece ends with a quote from Aaron himself:

There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that’s out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.

With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge — we’ll make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?


Requiesciat in pace.

About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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