Online Activist Aaron Swartz Takes Own Life, Relative Says

Adam Swartz

By David Ariosto

NEW YORK (CNN) — Aaron Swartz, the Internet political activist who co-wrote the initial specification for RSS, has committed suicide, a relative told CNN Saturday. He was 26.

“Great minds carry heavy burdens,” wrote one user on Reddit, a popular social media website that Swartz helped develop and popularize following a merger in 2006.

Swartz also co-founded Demand Progress, a political action group that campaigns against Internet censorship.

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A young prodigy, his passion pushed limits and landed him in legal troubles in recent years.

In 2011, he was arrested in Boston for alleged computer fraud and illegally obtaining documents from protected computers. He was later indicted from an incident in which he allegedly stole millions of online documents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He pleaded not guilty in September, according to MIT’s “The Tech” newspaper.

Two years earlier, the FBI investigated him after he released millions of U.S. federal court documents online. No charges were filed in that case.

Swartz, who completed a fellowship at Harvard’s Ethics Center Lab on Institutional Corruption, frequently blogged about his life, success and personal struggles. In some instances, he wrote about death.

“There is a moment, immediately before life becomes no longer worth living, when the world appears to slow down and all its myriad details suddenly become brightly, achingly apparent,” he wrote in a 2007 post entitled “A Moment Before Dying.”

UPDATE: The federal prosecutor in Massachusetts is asking that the criminal case pending against Aaron Swartz — the Reddit co-founder and digital activist — be dismissed, a court document stated late Monday.

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