At age 14 Swartz co-wrote the specifications for RSS, which is essential to the syndication of content over the web.
Aaron Swartz, a key figure in the development of the Internet as we know it, and perhaps the original and most famous “hacktivist,” is the subject of “The Internet’s Own Boy,” a documentary released Friday.
At the age of 26, Swartz took his own life in 2013. He was facing felony charges and prison for allegedly downloading millions of academic articles from MIT’s computer labs. None of the documents he allegedly acquired included sensitive personal data or would have landed Swartz any financial gain, but his supporters believe over-zealous prosecutors were determined to make an example of him. In her 2013 New Yorker profile of Swartz, Larissa MacFarquhar wrote that he was “murdered by the government.”
It was a tragic end to an incredible life. At age 14, Swartz co-wrote the specifications for RSS, which is essential to the syndication of content over the web. At 15, he worked with Stanford’s Lawrence Lessig to develop the code for Creative Commons. And by 19, he had helped found the huge social network site, Reddit.
“I wanted to tell this personal, ultimately tragic, story that also touches on a broken criminal justice system, outdated computer laws,” the film’s director, Brian Knappenberger told CNN.
With the documentary, CNN reports, Knappenberger sought to merge Swartz’s life story with a consideration of “some of the most important legal, social and ethical issues of the digital age.”
To Swartz’s friends and supporters, at least, it appears Knappenberger succeeded.
“It’s a heart-wrenching and infuriating movie that brings me to tears and inspires me every time I see it,” writes BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow.