In Memoriam: Aaron Swartz, Internet Activist, RSS Pioneer, and Co-Founder of Reddit


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Aaron Swartz, Internet Visionary Has Left Us

UPDATE

Tweet from (Sir) Tim Berners-Lee on the death of Aaron Swartz”  “Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.” And the web wept.

Today the blogosphere and media have lit up with tributes and obituaries to Aaron Swartz: not least of these include The Economist Magazine “Babbage” editorial page, and The Harvard Business Review blog

Read more, Babbage, The Economist:  http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/01/remembering-aaron-swartz?fsrc=nlw|newe|1-14-2013|4609454|34901933|NA

 Read more, HBR blog:   http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/01/aaron_swartzs_crime_and_the_bu.html

ORIGINAL POST

Only 26 years old, Aaron Swartz took his own life late last week.  Swartz was an Internet intellectual giant, recognized as such since his early teenage years..  We have lost a second generation Internet visionary..someone who could have helped us get to the next level of The Global Village..

At the age of 14, Swartz was credited with inventing RSS, known as “rich site summary,” a format for delivering to users content from sites that change constantly, such as news pages and blogs. We all use it.

The problem was that the powers that want corporate control the Internet did not like Aaron.. They want us to pay big corporations big bucks and they see the Internet as a threat to their power.  I personally view Swartz’ suicide as an existential act of immense courage, making the ultimate statement with his life, screaming at us that we need to “wake the fuck up”  as Samuel L. Jackson screamed at us in his viral video, during the US Presidential campaign.

Swartz faced trouble in July 2011, when he was indicted by a federal grand jury of wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges related to allegedly stealing millions of academic articles and journals from a digital archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to the federal indictment, Swartz – who was a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics – used MIT’s computer networks to steal more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive and journal distribution service. JSTOR did not press charges against Swartz after the digitised copies of the articles were returned, according to media reports at the time.  So why did the US Attorney insist on driving Aaron to commit suicide?

Swartz, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. He was released on bond. His trial was scheduled to start later this year.  Many legal scholars who have studied the case,  have described the US federal prosecution as a travesty, and out of all proportion to the facts..

Most importantly, if the United States views the Internet as a strategic national security resource, they completely fucked up by forcing the suicide of one of its most important new geniuses. You can’t get more fucked up than that. 

On Saturday, online tributes to Swartz flooded across cyberspace. “Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill and intelligence about people and issues,” Cory Doctorow, Canadian blogger and science fiction writer, co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing, wrote on the site. Doctorow wrote that Swartz had “problems with depression for many years.”  Depression, mood swings and even bipolar disorder are commonly associated with extremely bright people.

We lost Steve Jobs.. Now we have lost Aaron as well.  He could have been our next generation Marshall McLuhan, showing us the way…. But it was not to happen.  I am so angry I could spit.

 

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