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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 22 October, 2014

26-year-old web pioneer behind Reddit found dead

Aaron Swartz was an internet activist who had helped create RSS when he was just 14 years old. Authorities in New York are treating his death as a suicide.

Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz
Image: ragesoss via Flickr/Creative Commons

A CO-FOUNDER OF Reddit and activist who fought to make online content free to the public has been found dead, authorities in New York have confirmed.

A spokeswoman for New York’s medical examiner says 26-year-old Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment and was found on Friday.

Swartz was a prodigy who as a young teenager helped create RSS. He co-founded the social news website Reddit and directed the political action group Demand Progress that campaigns against Internet censorship.

In 2011, he was arrested in Boston and charged with stealing millions of scientific journals from from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Swartz pleaded not guilty. His federal trial on computer fraud charges was to begin next month. If convicted, he could have faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

In a post on Boing Boing, author and journalist Cory Doctorow described his sadness at the death of Swartz, saying:

To the world: we have all lost someone today who had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.

Doctorow described some of Swartz’s achievements thus:

Aaron accomplished some incredible things in his life. He was one of the early builders of Reddit (someone always turns up to point out that he was technically not a co-founder, but he was close enough as makes no damn), got bought by Wired/Conde Nast, engineered his own dismissal and got cashed out, and then became a full-time, uncompromising, reckless and delightful shit-disturber.

Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School who specialises in copyright and who knew Swartz, criticised the prosecutor who had continued to take the case again the 26-year-old and praised Swartz for what he had achieved:

He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think?

- Additional reporting by Christine Bohan

Read: Minister: Some politicians fear ‘transfer of power’ created by social media >

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