Ο ακτιβιστής του Διαδικτύου και παιδί-θαύμα των υπολογιστών Aaron Swartz, who helped create an early version of the World Wide Web's RSS feed system and was facing federal criminal charges in a controversial fraud case, took his own life at age 26, authorities announced on January 11, 2013.
Police found Swartz's body in his Brooklyn, New York apartment on Friday, January 9, 2013, according to the city's medical examiner, who ruled the death a suicide by hanging.
Over the years, it has become an Internet icon because it helped create a virtual mountain of information, free and available to the general public, including some 19 million pages, documents and federal court cases from the legal system PACER.
The belief that information should be shared and made available for the good of society prompted Swartz to found the nonprofit group DemandProgress.
The group led a successful campaign to block a bill introduced in 2011 in the US House of Representatives called Stop Online Piracy Act.
The bill, which was withdrawn amid pressure, would have allowed court orders to restrict access to certain websites deemed to be involved in illegal sharing of intellectual property.
Swartz and other activists objected that it would give the government too much power to censor and suppress legitimate online communication.
But Swartz ran into trouble when he was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges related to the alleged theft of millions of academic articles and journals from a digital archive of his Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
According to the federal indictment, Swartz, who was a fellow at Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics of Harvard University, used MIT's computer networks to steal more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive and magazine distribution service.
JSTOR did not prosecute Swartz after the digitized copies of the articles were returned, according to media reports at the time.
Swartz, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, faced up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. He was released on bail. His trial was scheduled for 2013.
“Aaron's death is not just a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system and prosecutorial overreach. "The DA's office sought an extremely severe set of charges, potentially carrying over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged victimless crime," his family said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said they want to respect the family's privacy and "do not feel it is appropriate to comment on the case at this time."
Swartz's funeral is planned for Highland Park, Illinois. On a Saturday in 2013, online tributes to Swartz flooded cyberspace.
"Aaron had an unrivaled combination of political insight, technical ability and intelligence for people and issues," wrote Doctorow, editor of the Boing Boing blog.
Doctorow wrote that Swartz had "problems with depression for many years."
Swartz also played a role in building the news-sharing site Reddit, but left the company after it was acquired by Wired magazine owner Conde Nast. Looking back on that period of his life, Swartz described his struggles with his dark emotions.
In an online account of his life and work, Swartz said he became "unhappy" after going to work at Wired's San Francisco offices after the Reddit acquisition.
"I took quite a bit of time off over Christmas," he wrote. "I got sick. I thought about suicide. I got away with it from the police. And when I came back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign."
Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited as the most important figure in the creation of the World Wide Web, honored Swartz in a post on Twitter.