Like everyone else participating in the future of the internets I was recently met with the sad news that Aaron Swartz has committed suicide.
Aaron and I was not super close but we had a lot of things, interests and friends in common. We’ve even been in a few documentaries together, which also led to lots of new mutual friends. Some of my close friends has been in relationships with Aaron and I really feel their pain. I hope to help them in any way I can.
Aaron was one of those guys that you knew was always standing up for the right thing. A lot of people all over the world has been shocked by the news and written heartfelt stories about him and his passing. His life affected so many, especially by being one of the pillar stones in the fight for equal access to information.
There’s lots of people blaming MIT and a US District Attorny for the pressure that Aaron was under, for the alleged “theft” of information. I don’t think it’s the core reason for Aarons suicide, but it certainly has added to the pressure he was under. I’ve tried the past years to talk to Aaron about the lawsuit, having some experience in a similar situation myself. I understand what kind of pressure it can be.
But his situation was a lot worse than mine, being threatened with 35 years(!) in prison, for liberating data that really should belong to the public. I have all the respect in the world for what he did. He was one of the few people who did rather than just talked – and at the same time he was also great when he talked about things.
Lawrence Lessig wrote a really important post about Aaron. I agree with him on the most parts, but I don’t agree on the morality issue of the data liberation; I think that what Aaron did was morally correct. And this is one of many reasons I’m going to miss Aaron, because he took action.
I always say that if you want things to change, you can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen by themselves, you have to act. Few people actually do that. This is where I always felt a link between Aaron and I, sometimes foolishly changing things eventhough it might hurt our own personal lives. I personally never regretted doing this, and I believe that Aarons actions has changed things, and will continue to do so. I hope his life will inspire other people to do more, in the memory of Aaron.
My condolences to Aarons family, and especially to my dear friends Elizabeth and Quinn.