Aaron Swartz And The Freedom To Connect

Aaron Swartz wanted nothing more than to change the world. He was doing just that until he ended his own life, at the age of 26, on Jan. 11. Aaron was a social justice activist, gifted with deep understanding of how computers and the Internet work, and how they could empower people around the world with the freedom to connect. Self-effacing and insatiably curious, he accomplished much in his too-short life. He took a lead role in defeating SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, a federal law that would have indelibly changed the operation of the Internet, granting corporations sweeping online censorship powers. Aaron became the target of zealous federal prosecutors who accused him of serious computer crimes, which his father, his lawyer and others say contributed to his suicide.

At the age of 14, Aaron helped develop RSS, "Really Simple Syndication," which changed how people get online content, allowing people to subscribe to different sources of information. RSS is how millions get their podcasts. He also helped develop the "Creative Commons" alternative to copyright, which encourages authors and publishers to share content. He founded a company, Infogami, that merged with Reddit, which allows users to collectively rank and promote contributed content, and is now one of the most popular websites globally. He attended Stanford, then, by 2010, became a fellow at Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

While at Harvard, his legal troubles began. He used the Internet at nearby MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to access a repository of digitized academic articles run by a nonprofit company called JSTOR, which apparently noticed a massive amount of downloads from a single user and contacted MIT to investigate.


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