Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 May 2015

Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz driven to suicide, says family

Internet activist Aaron Swartz (AP/The New York Times, Michael Francis McElroy)
Internet activist Aaron Swartz (AP/The New York Times, Michael Francis McElroy)

The family of a co-founder of the social news website Reddit who killed himself weeks before he was to go on trial on hacking charges has blamed prosecutors for his death.

Aaron Swartz hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment last Friday night, his family and authorities said.

The 26-year-old had fought to make online content free to the public and as a teenager helped create RSS, a family of web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users.

In 2011, he was charged with stealing millions of scientific journals from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an attempt to make them freely available. He denied the charges and a trial was to begin next month. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

In a statement, Mr Swartz's family in Chicago expressed not only grief over his death but also bitterness toward federal prosecutors pursuing the case in Massachusetts against him.

"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts US Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death," his family said.

Mr Swartz's lawyer Elliot Peters, his client had "the right" to download the journals.

Mr Swartz had struggled with depression, and wrote in a 2007 blog post: "Surely there have been times when you've been sad. Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. You feel worthless. Depressed mood is like that, it doesn't come for any reason."

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