UK & World News
Aaron Swartz Family Blame Prosecutors For Death
The family of internet activist and programming whizz-kid Aaron Swartz who committed suicide aged 26 have said they blame prosecutors for his death.
Mr Swartz killed himself in his Brooklyn apartment weeks before he was to go on trial on accusations that he stole millions of journal articles from an electronic archive in an attempt to make them freely available.
If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.
In a statement his family said: "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."
Mr Swartz was considered to be a pioneer of efforts to make online content freely available.
He was a prodigy who as a young teenager 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, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against internet censorship.
But Mr Swartz struggled with depression.
"Surely there have been times when you've been sad," he wrote in a 2007 blog post. "Perhaps a loved one has abandoned you or a plan has gone horribly awry. Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless."
He wrote that "depressed mood is like that, only it doesn't come for any reason and it doesn't go for any either".
Mr Swartz pleaded not guilty to allegations that he stole the documents from JSTOR, a subscription service used by Massachusetts Institute of Technology that offers digitised copies of articles from academic journals. Prosecutors said he intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites.
The prosecution "makes no sense," Demand Progress executive director David Segal said in a statement at the time. "It's like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library."
He was "an extraordinary hacker and activist," the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international nonprofit digital rights group based in California wrote in a tribute on its home page.
He "did more than almost anyone to make the internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way," the tribute said.
His family's statement went on to say: "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.
"We're grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world."