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Aaron Swartz

Last Edit: 14/08/17

Aaron Swartz was born on November 8th 1986, and is known as a computer programmer, entrepreneur and Internet activist. Swartz was in command of a prodigious intellect, and helped co-design the RSS web feed system when he was 14 years old. After contributing to the development RSS, Swartz played an important role in the creation of the Creative Commons (CC) open content project; alongside its inventor Lawrence Lessig and Matthew Haughey. Swartz's mother has stated her amazement at watching her son conduct a Creative Commons (CC) presentation while he was still a teenager. According to his brother, Aaron had a dislike of structured teaching - which he viewed as a regurgitation of information - and choose not to return to Stanford University after his freshman year.

In 2005, Swartz founded a tech company named Infogami, struggling to attract users, he merged the company with Reddit - which was founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian - and they sold Reddit to Condé Nast Publications in 2006. Condé Nast Publications owned the monthly American magazine Wired, and Swartz became an employee at Wired: unhappy with the corporate environment at Wired, Swartz stopped attending work, and he was fired in 2007.

Aaron's brother stated in the documentary "The Story of Aaron Swartz, The Man Who Could Change the World", that he enjoyed living in apartments, wearing jeans and t-shirts, and had no desire to require vast wealth. Swartz had a deep respect for Tim Berners-Lee, and his altruistic act of giving the world the gift of the World Wide Web for free. Swartz became interested in politics, and in particular the evolution of the Internet and the freedom of information on it (Open Access movement). Swartz penned the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto" in 2008, which stated the following:

"Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations."

"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."

Swartz was beset by legal issues from 2008 onwards, after coming to the attention of authorities when he downloaded over two million federal court documents stored by PACER. During this period, Swartz was highly involved in many Internet Activist causes, and his philosophy can be best summed up when he stated the following: "We live in a world where it will benefit the biggest Internet companies if their little competitors would be censored, we can't let that happen." Swartz was a leading 'face' opposing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA); a bill introduced in the House by Lamar Smith on October 26th, 2011. Opponents believed the bill violated the first amendment of the United States Constitution and could lead to an unprecedented level of Internet censorship. The bill was defeated, and Swartz was lauded for his contribution to the result.

Between 2008-2012, Swartz would contribute to two privacy software applications: Tor2web and DeadDrop. In 2013, afederal legal indictment beset Swartz, and he committed suicide on January 11th, 2013. Tim Berners-Lee made a moving statement upon hearing of Aaron's death: "Aaron is dead. Wanderers in this crazy world, we have lost a mentor, a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down, we have lost one of our own. Nurturers, carers, listeners, feeders, parents all, we have lost a child. Let us all weep."