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January 13, 2013

Internet Activist Aaron Swartz Dies at 26

by VOA News

Twenty-six-year-old computer prodigy and Internet activist Aaron Swartz has been found dead in his apartment in New York.

The New York medical examiner said Friday Swartz apparently hanged himself. He had publicly discussed on his blog his struggle with depression.

Swartz was set to go on trial later this year on federal charges that he stole millions of scholarly articles from JSTOR, an online archive and journal distribution service, in an attempt to make the articles freely available to the public. He faced decades in prison and $1 million in fines, if convicted.

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

However, media reports say U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz would not drop the case.

She is reported to have said "stealing is stealing, whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars."

Swartz's family said in a statement that his death "is not simply a personal tragedy.  It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach."

As a young teenager, Swartz helped create RSS, a family of Web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users. 

He co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast. 

He was also the co-founder of the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.