Internet activist and computer prodigy Aaron Swartz, who co-developed RSS 1.0 at the age of 14, has died at 26. He has committed suicide. He has earned the fame of an online icon after hacking 18 million pages of documents from the U.S. government’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) and releasing them for free. The government typically charges eight cents per page and the FBI said the value of total download is about $1.5 million.
“Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves.” Swartz wrote in an online “manifesto” in 2008. “The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. … sharing isn’t immoral – it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy,” he said.
This conviction had prompted prompted Swartz to found the nonprofit group DemandProgress, which led a successful campaign to block a bill introduced in 2011 in the U.S. House of Representatives called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The bill, which was withdrawn amid public pressure, would have allowed court orders to curb access to certain websites deemed to be engaging in illegal sharing of intellectual property. Reuters reports furthermore.