Aaron Swartz, co-founder of Reddit and an online activist, has been found dead in his Brooklyn apartment. The 26-year-old is believed to have taken his own life.
Swartz's lawyer Elliot R Peters emailed the MIT university newspaper The Tech to confirm the news. "The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true," he wrote.
At the time of his death, Swartz was dealing with a lawsuit over allegations he downloaded millions of documents from online research group JSTOR. He pleaded not guilty last year, but if he had been found guilty, he would have been facing prison. The organisation Demand Progress, which Swartz helped to found, compared the allegations to "trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library."
Swartz had previously written about suffering from depression for many years.
Swartz's friend and fellow activist Cory Doctorow posted a tribute on Boing Boing. On meeting Swartz as a teenager, Doctorow writes: "Aaron had powerful, deeply felt ideals, but he was also always an impressionable young man, someone who often found himself moved by new passions. He always seemed somehow in search of mentors, and none of those mentors ever seemed to match the impossible standards he held them (and himself) to."
Not only was Swartz one of the early builders of Reddit, the popular social news and entertainment site, he also became a fully-fledged online activist, helping to put a huge amount of data in the public domain, which attracted the attention of the FBI. Theories abound as to why he was still being prosecuted for his lawsuit last year after MIT (where Swartz downloaded the articles) and journal publisher JSTOR backed down. Some say the FBI was still peeved he didn't pay for what it saw as his previous wrongdoings.
Many paid their respects on Twitter.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, wrote: "Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep."
Glenn Greenwald, a Guardian blogger and columnist, wrote: "This is so unbelievably sad and horrible on so many levels -- RIP."
W3C Team, a web-based community dedicated to Internet growth, wrote: "We are saddened that Aaron Swartz, long-time collaborator, ended his life yesterday. Rest in peace, young bright man."