Swartz in 2012 protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

November 8 is Aaron Swartz’s birthday. He was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the Markdown publishing format, and the organization Creative Commons. He is also a co-founder of Reddit.

Born in 1986, his work focused on civic awareness and activism. He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism.

Sadly, he was charged with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of 1 million dollars in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release. Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead by suicide in his Brooklyn apartment. In 2013, Swartz was inducted posthumously into the Internet Hall of Fame.

I suggest watching “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” documentary video. It features interviews with his family and friends as well as the internet luminaries who worked with him. The film tells his story up to his eventual suicide after a legal battle, and explores the questions of access to information and civil liberties that drove his work.


Part of this post is taken from Wikipedia’s article “Aaron Swartz“.