Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Pierluigi Paganini January 13, 2013

Aaron Swartz  has committed suicide on January 11, 2013 in New York City.

I have long been fought if you write something about this extraordinary boy, but not dedicate a tribute would be a shame. Aaron Swartz has decided to leave a huge void in the IT scenario.

For me, as the entire world he IS a legend, a guy that has profoundly changed our daily work.

Aaron Swartz is an eclectic persona, he is an hacker and active activist, co-founder of social news website Reddit and founder of the group DemandProgress. The EFF in a blog post states:

“Aaron did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way. His contributions were numerous, and some of them were indispensable. When we asked him in late 2010 for help in stopping COICA, the predecessor to the SOPA and PIPA Internet blacklist bills, he founded an organization called Demand Progress, which mobilized over a million online activists and proved to be an invaluable ally in winning that campaign.”

In 2002 Swartz have been the youngest speaker at Comdex (Computer Dealers’ Exhibition) expo, he was actively involved in the RSS 1.0 specification

In 2008, Swartz downloaded 20 million pages of legal documents from PACER, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, which charges 10 cents per page for access. In that occasion, with the help of other hacktivist Swartz sought to make the documents freely available.

Aaron belongs to the categories of persons that have something of special, he has demonstrated from a young age his enormous capabilities, probably the real cause of the tragedy.

Be at only 14 years old  in the spotlight of the media circus that force you to grow up quickly, has burnt those steps that every teenager should live, probably damaging beyond repair the fragile mind of the prodigy.

He is too far, he was, he is and he will be an awkward figure with which to compare, he has left his body but his ideology  is alive and strong as ever.

He has been a member of the Harvard University Ethics Center Lab,  in 2011 July 19th he was arrested accused for the download  of  4 millions of articles from  JSTOR, he was awaiting trial, risking up to 35 years in prison.

According to the indictment, Swartz had hidden a laptop connected to the computer network at MIT, which would allow him to download the articles. According to the indictment Swartz acted with the intent to make the documents available on a peer-to-peer, open access.

Aaron Swartz could have anything from life, but he has decided to devote his life in defense of the right of expression and of free access to the information.

Aaron’s suicide raises the question on the U.S. computer crime laws and related punishment regimes. Many activists and ordinary people, including myself, are upset of the inadequacy of punishment when compared to other crimes. The cyber world is complex, and even more is the judgment of a computer crime for many different purposes.

Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World Wide Web, wrote on Twitter.

“Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.” 

Swartz’s family and friends have set up a memorial page here.

“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” a statement from Swartz’s family said on Saturday.

“It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”

We miss you too, Aaron, fly high my dear … This is another lesson you gave us … certainly not the last.

Pierluigi Paganini

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