Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old internet activist who cofounded the social news website Reddit, was found dead of an apparent suicide on Friday in New York City.
Swartz’s attorney confirmed the news to The Tech early Saturday morning:
“The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true,” confirmed Swartz’ attorney, Elliot R. Peters of Kecker and Van Nest, in an email to The Tech.
The news of Swartz’s death comes a year and some months after he was arrested for allegedly downloading 4 million academic journals from the subscription-only JSTOR with the intent to distribute them freely over P2P file-sharing sites. The articles were stored on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network.
Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison for wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer. He pleaded not guilty to all charges in September of 2012.
But just two days before his death, JSTOR began offering free but limited access to its archives.
In the wake of his suicide, MIT university president L. Rafael Reif said that the university will start an internal investigation into its role in Swartz’s prosecution.
We will continue to keep his family in our thoughts and prayers.