On January 11, 2013, I woke up to some terrible news. My mentor Aaron Swartz, who shaped my view on life and helped me create the man I am today, had passed away. I did not have the pleasure of meeting him in person but I was able to watch his life from a far. It is not common to meet someone impressive and smart as Aaron. Originally we were brought together for his views on SOPA, I soon began to learn from his views and perspectives and his wealth of knowledge.
Aaron was a computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organizer, and Internet hacktivist.
At age 13, Swartz won an ArsDigita Prize, given to young people who create useful and educational noncommercial websites. A year later he helped create Rss which stands for Rich Site Summary which is used today by bloggers and news outlets. He attended a private Day School near Chicago until 9th grade. He left that school in the 10th grade to peruse a college degree.
Aaron spent a lot of time using the Internet to advance civilization and democracy. Just to name a few things he did, he co-founded Reddit, worked for Wired News, founded Watchdog.net to aggregate and visualize data about politicians, Created deaddrop which is now called secure drop that lets the media talk to whistle blowers, delivered thousands of “Honor Kennedy” petition signatures with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to Massachusetts legislators asking them to fulfill former Senator Ted Kennedy’s last wish by appointing a senator to vote for health care reform.
He also Co-founded Demand Progress, was one of the main activists involved with the fight against Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), downloaded 2.7 million federal court documents stored in the PACER database and to release them to the public with a script he wrote but did not release them, helped progress the darkweb.
During the time he was alive and after he received support from the U.S. House of Representatives Darrell Issa, Jared Polis, Zoe Lofgren, Senator Elizabeth Warren, & Senator John Cornyn
Two years before his alleged suicide, Swartz was arrested by police on breaking-and-entering charges, after connecting a computer to the MIT network and setting it to download academic journal articles that he released free of charge. Two days after his suicide Anonymous hacked MIT domain replacing their websites with tributes to Aaron. Five days after that, MIT’s e-mail system was taken down for ten hours. On January 26, 2013, the U.S. Sentencing Commission website, USSC.gov, was hacked and replaced with a video from Anonymous dubed Operation Last Resort and later released hundreds a secret documents.
Anonymous cited the suicide of hacktivist Aaron Swartz as a “line that has been crossed”, stated the Operation Last Resort campaign is retaliation for Swartz’s tragic suicide. Anonymous believes his suicide was a result of overzealous prosecution by the Department of Justice.
I want to leave you with a quote from Aaron that I try to live by every day.