Aaron Swartz — Internet activist, RSS co-author and Reddit co-founder — committed suicide in New York on Friday, reported The Tech, MIT’s newspaper.
Swartz’s uncle and attorney both confirmed the news to the publication.
“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true,” said Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest, Swartz’ attorney, in an email to The Tech.
Swartz was a co-founder of the digital activist organization Demand Progress, which was one of the Internet freedom organizations instrumental in the fight against SOPA and PIPA. He was also a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
In July 2011, Swartz was charged with allegedly downloading and distributing more than 4 million documents — many in the public domain — from MIT and journal archiving service JSTOR.
He was charged in September 2012 with 13 counts of felony hacking.
Demand Progress had said at the time that the Justice Department’s indictment of Swartz was like “trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”
He pled not guilty in September 2012, but still faced possible prison time, ZDNet reported, noting that his financial woes generated during his struggle against the Justice Department were no secret.
Cory Doctorow, co-editor of the blog Boing Boing and a friend of Swartz, wrote a personal tribute to Swartz early Saturday morning.
PublicResource.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing and sharing public domain materials in the U.S., also turned its homepage into a tribute to Swartz.
“BE FREE,” reads the homepage.
“When the right to communicate was imperiled by tyrants and profiteers, the Postmaster General changed his frank from “Free, B. Franklin” to “Be Free, Franklin,” it said.
“Aaron Swartz made our world more free,” it said. “Be Free, Internet. Thank you, Aaron, for what you gave us.”