Aaron Swartz, RIP

I am really grieving the loss of Aaron Swartz, who killed himself the other day.

His family attributes his suicide in part to depression triggered by the federal CFAA prosecution for his JSTOR hack. JSTOR had withdrawn their charges long ago — but the federal government continued to prosecute. Who knows why — maybe the prosecutor(s) were hoping to expand the reach of CFAA (a bad idea for an already too-vague statute — twitter#reformCFAA), or maybe they were simply pissy because of previous run-ins with Swartz for liberating court records.

What really breaks my heart is that he was only 26 years old. He had spent his whole life since he was 14 years old trying to figure out how to make a more just world. He was largely focused on OUR ISSUES — access to information. He worked with Carl Malamud on PACER and access to court records. He worked on OpenLibrary. He organized, for christ’s sake, against SOPA and PIPA. He contributed to Wikipedia, and on the LawfulUse mailing list, and in scores of ways that I had heard of but wasn’t personally familiar with, and no doubt in scores of ways I never even heard of.

Any loss of a young person is a grievous one, and a loss of potential. Any loss of an activist hurts the movement, and takes positive energy out of the world. Any loss to suicide is a fucking waste that makes all the other losses so bitter.

* Larry Lessig, Prosecutor as Bully, at lessig blog

* Wikimedia Foundation, Remembering Aaron Swartz 1986-2013, wikimedia blog

* NYT, Internet Activist Is Dead at 26, NYT obit