Reddit Co-Founder Aaron Swartz Commits Suicide

A co-founder of Reddit and activist who fought to make online content free to the public has been found dead

Co-founder of the social news website Reddit Aaron Swartz died Friday, after committing suicide in New York City. 

He was 26 years old.

Swartz reportedly suffered from depression and was facing charges for illegally downloading 4.8 million documents from the academic archive JSTOR. 

CNN first reported the suicide early Saturday morning.  The suicide was later confirmed by Swartz's uncle to the MIT's newspaper to The Tech.

That same uncle told NBC News that Swartz hanged himself, and that his girlfriend discovered the body.

The Swartz family released a statement Saturday afternoon saying they were in shock and having trouble coming to terms with the death

"Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable—these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter. We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world," the statement read in part.

Swartz was indicted in 18 months ago by a federal grand jury for allegedly downloading millions of documents from JSTOR through the MIT network. The charge was that he used a hidden laptop in a basement network closet at MIT with the intent to distribute them.

JSTOR did not press charges once it reclaimed the articles from Swartz.

The prosecution "makes no sense," Demand Progress Executive Director David Segar said in a statement at the time.

"It's like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library." Criticizing the government's actions in the pending prosecution, Harvard law professor and Safra Center faculty director Lawrence Lessig called himself a friend of Swartz's and wrote Saturday that "we need a better sense of justice. ... The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a `felon.'"

Swartz appeared in court last September where he plead not guilty to the charge.

His trial was to begin next month. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

Swartz was a prodigy who as a young teenager helped create RSS, a family of Web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users. He later co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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