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Online activist Aaron Swartz commits suicide, relative says

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Online activist Aaron Swartz commits suicide, relative says

By Michael Martinez, CNN

(CNN) -- Aaron Swartz, an Internet savant who at a young age shaped the online era by co-developing RSS and Reddit and later became a digital activist, has committed suicide, a relative told CNN Saturday.

Swartz's body was found Friday evening in Brooklyn, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman with the New York medical examiner's office. The 26-year-old had hanged himself.

A prodigy, Swartz was behind some of the Internet's defining moments, soaring to heights that many developers only dream of. At the same time, he was plagued by legal problems arising from his aggressive activism, and he was also known to suffer depression, a personal matter that he publicly revealed on his blog.

Technology activist Cory Doctorow met Swartz when he was 14 or 15, Doctorow said on his blog.

"In so many ways, he was an adult, even then, with a kind of intense, fast intellect that really made me feel like he was part and parcel of the Internet society," Doctorow wrote.

"But Aaron was also a person who'd had problems with depression for many years," Doctorow blogged. He added that "whatever problems Aaron was facing, killing himself didn't solve them. Whatever problems Aaron was facing, they will go unsolved forever."

At age 14, Swartz co-wrote the RSS specification.

He was later admitted to Stanford University, but dropped out after a year because, as

he wrote in a blog post, "I didn't find it a very intellectual atmosphere, since most of the other kids seemed profoundly unconcerned with their studies."

What he did next was help develop Reddit, the social news website that was eventually bought by heavyweight publisher Conde Nast in 2006.

Swartz then engaged in Internet digital activism, co-founding Demand Progress, a political action group that campaigns against Internet censorship.

But he pushed the legal limits, allegedly putting him on the wrong side of the law.

In 2011, he was arrested in Boston for alleged computer fraud and illegally obtaining documents from protected computers. He was later indicted from an incident in which he allegedly stole millions of online documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He pleaded not guilty in September, according to MIT's

"The Tech" newspaper.

Two years earlier, the FBI investigated him after he released millions of U.S. federal court documents online. The alleged hacking was significant because the documents came from the government-run Public Access to Court Electronic Records, or PACER, which typically charges a fee, which was 8 cents a page in 2009.

No charges were filed in that case, but on October 5, 2009, he posted online his FBI file that he apparently requested from the agency. He redacted the FBI agents' names and his personal information, he said.

In that file, the FBI said more than 18 million pages with a value of about $1.5 million were downloaded from PACER in September 2008 to Swartz's home in Highland Park, Illinois.

"As I hoped, it's truly delightful," he wrote of his FBI file.

Swartz, who completed a fellowship at Harvard's Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption, frequently blogged about his life, success and personal struggles. In some instances, he wrote about death.

"There is a moment, immediately before life becomes no longer worth living, when the world appears to slow down and all its myriad details suddenly become brightly, achingly apparent," he wrote in a 2007 post titled

"A Moment Before Dying."

"Surely there have been times when you've been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless. You wonder whether it's worth going on," he wrote.

"Everything you think about seems bleak — the things you've done, the things you hope to do, the people around you. You want to lie in bed and keep the lights off. Depressed mood is like that, only it doesn't come for any reason and it doesn't go for any either.

"At best, you tell yourself that your thinking is irrational, that it is simply a mood disorder, that you should get on with your life. But sometimes that is worse. You feel as if streaks of pain are running through your head, you thrash your body, you search for some escape but find none. And this is one of the more moderate forms," he wrote.

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So sad .. there appears a desperate need for a proper mental health program in the US .. tho I am sure Aaron had the wherewithal to afford medial care, it seems there needs to be a public education program initiated so those folks close to the problem can help more .. lessons learned from Ric Rypen's death need to become the focus of our education system at every level .. RIP ..

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Anonymous hacks MIT after Aaron Swartz's suicide

Hacktivist group defaces university pages after the school promises a full investigation into MIT's role in events leading up to the Internet activist taking his life.

January 13, 2013 9:34 PM PST


Anonymous' message on an MIT page

Just hours after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pledged an investigation into its role in events leading up to the suicide of Aaron Swartz, online hacktivist group Anonymous defaced the school's Web site.

Swartz, a Reddit cofounder who championed open access to documents on the Internet, committed suicide on Friday. The 26-year-old was arrested in July 2011 and accused of stealing 4 million documents from MIT and Jstor, an archive of scientific journals and academic papers. He faced $4 million in fines and more than 50 years in prison if convicted.

After MIT President L. Rafael Reif issued a statement this afternoon promising a "thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present," Anonymous targeted at least two MIT Web sites. Lacking the loose-knit group's usual feisty language, the message posted on the Web site was a call for reform in the memory of the late Internet activist.

After calling the prosecution of Swartz "a grotesque miscarriage of justice" and "a distorted and perverse shadow of the justice that Aaron died fighting for," Anonymous outlined its list of goals under a section reservedly labeled "Our wishes:"

  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of computer crime laws, and the overzealous prosecutors who use them.

  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for reform of copyright and intellectual property law, returning it to the proper principles of common good to the many, rather than private gain to the few.

  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for greater recognition of the oppression and injustices heaped daily by certain persons and institutions of authority upon anyone who dares to stand up and be counted for their beliefs, and for greater solidarity and mutual aid in response.

  • We call for this tragedy to be a basis for a renewed and unwavering commitment to a free and unfettered internet, spared from censorship with equality of access and franchise for all.

CNET has contacted MIT for comment on the apparent hacking and will update this report when we learn more.

Critics of the prosecutors in the case say the feds were unfairly trying to make an example out of Swartz. "Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy," Swartz's family said in a statement released yesterday. "It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death."

CNET has also contacted the U.S. Attorney's office and will update this report when we hear back.

Christ. I know very little about Reddit, but 50 years in prison and/or a 4 million dollar fine would likely change me for the worse.

At least MIT is investigating their potential involvement. Give me a break.

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^ ^ ^ This whole situation both angers me, hurts me and ultimately pi$$es me off .. thanks Green Building, for sharing ..

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How Anonymous Got Westboro to Back Off Aaron Swartz's Funeral


Fresh off their most recent spat over the Newtown shootings, the left-wing cult reviled hate group protestors at Westboro Baptist Church and the do-gooder hacktivists from Anonymous faced off over the ongoing Aaron Swartz suicide controversy on Tuesday — albeit briefly — and in a sign of Anonymous's growing power, the hackers won.

The folks from Westboro began the day telling everyone and anyone that they'd be picketing the funeral of the revered hacker Swartz, whom they called a "cigarette, Jew bastard whose entire life was an assault against God." But after an instant — and instantly successful — video and social-media operation from Anonymous, the excitable "church" group apparently didn't show up to Swartz's funeral outside of Chicago. The Anonymous Twitter account reported this police confirmation about Westboro's no-shows late this morning:


Police comfirm
's lawyer contacted them and said the would not be protesting


Anonymous's tweet is confirmation enough that their pledge to defend Swartz's funeral worked out pretty well. You see, Westboro had been tweeting, pushing press releases, and marking Swartz's funeral on their schedule. Swartz's funeral is, in fact, still posted on their website:


And that ugly talk got Anonymous involved, as the group pledged to protect their fellow hacker's funeral by asking people to form a human shield in a movement they called "Operation Angel," or #opangel. Anonymous posted this video Monday explaining their defense of the memorial service:

As we've seen with the ongoing impact of their involvement in the Steubenville rape case, Anonymous in 2013 is transforming from notorious to notable, and more than just the hacker community or close watchers of online controversies are starting to take notice on a wider scale. Perhaps Westboro didn't want to deal with that, especially after their plans to picket the death of some of the children murdered in Newtown, led to the hacking of Westboro spokesperson Shirley Phelps Roper's Twitter feed the leaking of personal information of its members. When Anonymous wins, it seems, their enemies just keep losing.

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This could well be the "progressive" way to undermine these hate and fear-mongering groups .. I look for a steady rise in on-line activist groups, complete with their own "Public Relations" entity .. the best work will be done "behind the scenes" and low key .. but if the paranoiacs in the USA think they have the vapors now, they have yet to be "tested" ..

Its a good thing that there could be a Mental Health component to the proposals being made tomorrow by the President .. some of these folks may finally receive the treatment they have so desperately needed ..

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I am positively shocked that those churchy morons backed away from their protest.

My respect for Anonymous grows, even though I am no fan of hacking, they seem to do it for positive uses only. So far, anyways. Could you imagine going to a family members funeral and having westboro baptist (intentionally uncapitalized) show up with the audacity to ruin a day of mourning? People like to throw the word "entitlement" around on this board... well westboro are some unentitled aholes that's for sure.

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Every dog has his day .. maybe these westboro folks realize their window of opportunity has reached its zenith, and they can slink back into the shadows, and await retribution, for surely it will come .. whether thru karma, "God" or "progressives" ..

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