Death Of A Hacktivist

Patricia Aufderheide | In These Times | May 19, 2014

Aaron Swartz was an Internet prodigy and a trouble-maker. The new documentary The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is not only about Swartz, but about why we should care about the issues he cared about, and the trouble that triggered his suicide. Swartz was committed to an open and secure Internet, and was acutely aware of how that openness is compromised in different ways every day. To Brian Knappenberger, the film’s director, Swartz was something of a canary in a coal mine. “We all live massively networked lives,” Knappenberger explains. “All our lives have an Internet component to them. So everyone lives online and yet no one knows how it works.”

Swartz, who was only 26 when he died in 2013, was a child of the Internet. He grew up with computers and began writing code at a young age. He was a furious inventor; as a teen he helped design the web feed service RSS and the copyright licensing system Creative Commons. At 20, Swartz got rich when Reddit (the crowd-source aggregator with which he’d merged his own start-up site) was sold to Condé Nast.

The film tracks the development of an extraordinary talent, who used his talents in unorthodox ways to resist both money and power...