When he was 14 years old, Aaron helped develop the RSS standard; he went on to found Infogami, which became part of Reddit. But more than anything Aaron was a coder with a conscience: a tireless and talented hacker who poured his energy into issues like network neutrality, copyright reform and information freedom. Among countless causes, he worked with Larry Lessig at the launch of the Creative Commons, architected the Internet Archive’s free public catalog of books, OpenLibrary.org, and in 2010 founded Demand Progress, a non-profit group that helped drive successful grassroots opposition to SOPA last year.
A section of the Official Statement from his partner and family reminds us of his profound impact on promoting social justice and intellectual freedom:
Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He was instrumental to the defeat of an Internet censorship bill; he fought for a more democratic, open, and accountable political system; and he helped to create, build, and preserve a dizzying range of scholarly projects that extended the scope and accessibility of human knowledge. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place. His deeply humane writing touched minds and hearts across generations and continents. He earned the friendship of thousands and the respect and support of millions more.
Swartz was facing a federal jury trial to begin on April 1, 2013 for 13 felony charges. The charges stemmed from his alleged actions related to downloading four million JSTOR articles from MIT. The prosecutors called these actions stealing and believe that he intended to share the articles on file-sharing sites and peer-to-peer networks. If convicted of the charges, Swartz could have been fined up to $1 million and faced up to 35 years in prison.