Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old tech prodigy and Internet activist who was also the co-founder of Reddit, has died. He was found unresponsive in his apartment and was pronounced dead, his family confirms in a statement.
Police have ruled his death one by suicide, TIME magazine reports: Aaron had hanged himself.
“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,” reads the statement from his family, confirming Swartz’s passing.
“Aaron’s commitment to social justice was profound, and defined his life. He used his prodigious skills as a programmer and technologist not to enrich himself but to make the Internet and the world a fairer, better place,” the family adds.
Swartz was a firm believer that information that benefits the public should be accessible to all, so he concentrated all his efforts into making that happen.
He founded the organization Demand Progress, which was instrumental in getting the US government to back down from the purported anti-piracy law proposed last year.
He also co-founded Reddit, which has turned into one of the biggest platforms for social justice through Internet activists.
A boy wonder, Aaron used his skills to do what he considered was right, even if that meant landing him on the wrong side of the law: in April, he was to stand trial on the charge of federal data theft, to which he had already pled not guilty.
According to TIME, Swartz had broken into the “M.I.T. computer system and allegedly download[ed] 4.8 million documents from the subscription based academic research database JSTOR.”
Had he been found guilty, he would have faced a sentence of 35 years in jail and a $1 million (€749,681) fine.
“He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think?” law professor and activist Lawrence Lessig says of Swartz.