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Aaron Swartz, twenty-six year-old founder of Reddit, is dead

The world of social media and beyond is today reel­ing from the shock announce­ment that the 26-year-old co-founder of Red­dit, Aaron Swartz, is dead.

There can be few social media man­agers, com­mu­ni­ty man­agers and con­tent man­agers who could have been left unim­pressed by Swartz’ achieve­ments and eth­i­cal com­mit­ments. The suc­cess of Red­dit was an inspi­ra­tion to Mark Zucker­berg, but Swartz was also a devot­ed cru­sad­er for free­dom of infor­ma­tion online. He appears to have com­mit­ted sui­cide on Fri­day in New York City.

A stress­ful trial

The trou­bled young genius may have suc­cumbed to pres­sure weigh­ing down on him as he faced tri­al, accused of hack­ing into the online research group JSTOR and down­load­ing mil­lions of doc­u­ments. Swartz plead­ed not guilty last year but, if con­vict­ed, would prob­a­bly have faced a lengthy jail sentence.

It was his lawyer, Elliott R. Peters, who con­firmed news of his death in an email to the MIT’s news­pa­per, The Tech, by say­ing, “The trag­ic and heart­break­ing infor­ma­tion you received is, regret­tably, true.”

Swartz pur­sued his fight against inter­net cen­sor­ship with enor­mous devo­tion and those who sup­port­ed his aims were huge­ly sup­port­ive of his cause as the tri­al loomed. An organ­i­sa­tion he had helped set up, Demand Progress, likened his predica­ment to “try­ing to put some­one in jail for alleged­ly check­ing too many books out of the library.” Its pro­gram direc­tor, David Moon, said that he was “shocked and sad­dened” to hear of Swartz’s untime­ly death.

Mov­ing tributes
A close friend, web expert Cory Doc­torow, post­ed on his blog that Swartz may well have been fear­ful of a long prison sen­tence but added that he also suf­fered bouts of depres­sion. He wrote: “We have all lost some­one today who had more work to do, and who made the world a bet­ter place when he did it.”

Anoth­er deep friend, Quinn Nor­ton, who he’d helped through a painful divorce some years ago, wrote:

“I can only say I love him. That I will always love him, and that I known for years I would. Aaron was a boy, not big, who cast a shad­ow across the world. But for me, he will always be that per­son who made me love him.”

Numer­ous online trib­utes are still pour­ing in from those who per­son­al­ly knew or were inspired by the bril­liant but tor­tured young tech wizard.

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