Reddit founder and internet activist Aaron Swartz commits suicide

Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old cyber activist and co-founder of internet phenomenon Reddit, committed suicide yesterday in his New York home.

The dedicated advocate for freedom of the internet and entrepreneur had long battled depression and had been facing trial over hacking accusations related to the download of millions of files from the online research group JSTOR. Having pleaded not guilty to the charges, he was facing a substantial prison term if convicted.

The MIT university newspaper The Tech received an email from Swartz's lawyer, Elliot R Peters, which confirmed early rumours about the dynamic young man’s sad demise. The newspaper reported the email as saying: "The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true."

Swartz's friend and mentor, Cory Doctorow, spoke of him as someone who was "very involved in freedom issues" with "powerful, deeply felt ideals," but also an "impressionable young man," while Tim Berners Lee - creator of the internet tweeted "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."

"Aaron has been depressed about his case/upcoming trial, but we had no idea what he was going through was this painful," his mother wrote on Hacker News. "Aaron was a terrific young man. He contributed a lot to the world in his short life and I regret the loss of all the things he had yet to accomplish. As you can imagine, we all miss him dearly. The grief is unfathomable." She went on to condemn MIT for their lack of support in a very questionable legal case with very real consequences.

Swartz is not the first start up founder to lose the fight against depression. Last year Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the 22-year-old co-founder of Diaspora also succumbed to the blackness and took his own life.

Swartz made a huge impact on the Internet community. At the tender age of 14, he co-wrote RSS 1.0 before going on to found one of the 2 companies that would combine to form Reddit. He also co-founded an advocacy group called DemandProgress, which helped build progressive grass roots campaigns and has been in the vanguard of the movement to prevent new regulations from strangling the internet.

In words that took on a new poignancy today, he wrote this in 2007 about the nature of suicidal impulse"There is a moment, immediately before life becomes no longer worth living, when the world appears to slow down and all its myriad details suddenly become brightly, achingly apparent," he wrote.

His funeral is due to take place on Tuesday.

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