Reddit Co-Founder, Hacker, Commits Suicideon January 13, 2013 at 9:20 pm
In American culture, the role of being a “hacker” has been elevated, somewhat, to almost folk-hero status. While the hacker breaks through online barriers and, at times, certain existing laws regarding suitable conduct on the Internet, that position of lawlessness is somehow regarded as admirable at times. Part of it is the motif of the post-modern bandit, who evades the status quo in an effort to bring truth and a revised interpretation of “justice” to a system they feel, in large part, has become too bulky and restrictive. On the other hand, the clever use of technological innovation to influence the world around us had created a breeding ground where the big businessmen of yesterday are instead yielding to the humble web entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
A recurring theme in the digital world is that of the “hero” who emerges and, bending the accepted norm to their own liking, falls into an often dangerous trap where the penalties for truth-seeking come at a hefty price. Such was the case with the late Aaron Swartz, co-founder of the popular website Reddit.com and Internet activist, whose work promoted openness and freedom on the web that, at times, ran in stark conflict with anti-piracy laws.
Suicide Ruled in Hacker’s Death
According to the New York Daily Post:
Swartz was also an avid Internet activist, who pushed to make web files open to the public. He opposed the “Stop Online Piracy Act,” which keeps hackers from swiping web content such as music and movies.
But that mindset got him into trouble in June 2012, when federal officers arrested him for allegedly downloading academic journals on the subscription-only website JSTOR.com.
He pleaded not guilty to fraud in 2012 — but the case remained open at the time of his death. He faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.
Swartz’s mother allegedly responded online to the suicide, stating that while it was known that Swartz was a depressed individual, it was not known the extent of his depression, and what harm it might eventually entail.
Aaron Swartz was also an innovator, having crafted an early version of the popular RSS format of syndication used by blogging and podcasting formats. And arguably, in addition to being an innovator and maverick genius, he will be martyred in memory, to an extent, as a result of his untimely demise which stood athwart a future of activism in a brave new technological world.
Image by Peretz Partensky via Flickr.