Aaron Swartz, an online activist and co-founder of the popular social media site Reddit, committed suicide in his apartment in New York Friday, just weeks before going on trial on federal hacking charges. He was 26 years old.
The news of Swartz’s untimely death was confirmed to MIT’s The Tech by both his uncle and his lawyer Saturday morning.
Swartz’s uncle, Michael Wolf, told the New York Times that the programmer had hanged himself, and his body was discovered by his girlfriend inside his home in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn at around 9.30am.
Police told the New York Daily News that the 26-year-old man ended his life by hanging himself from a belt in his seventh-floor unit on Sullivan Place. He left no suicide note.
Swartz was a gifted programmer who helped develop the RSS at age 14. He then went on to start a company that would eventually merge with Reddit, as well as Demand Progress, a political action group that campaigns against Internet censorship.
He was arrested in 2011 for allegedly downloading more than four million academic journals with intent to distribute them free of charge through file-sharing sites. He faced up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
In the past, the 26-year-old hinted at a battle with depression, according to Gawker.
In a 2007 speech, the Internet advocate described himself as being ‘miserable’ after moving to San Francisco when his company was purchased by the publishing giant Conde Nast.
‘I couldn’t stand San Francisco. I couldn’t stand office life,’ he said at the time. ‘I took a long Christmas vacation. I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign.’
In a blog post from later that year, Swartz went into further detail regarding his bout with depression, writing:
‘Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feel worthless. You wonder whether it’s worth going on. Everything you think about seems bleak – the things you’ve done, the things you hope to do, the people around you.