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.Â
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 DailyÂ NewsÂ that the 26-year-old man ended his life byÂ hanging himself from a belt in his seventh-floor unit on Sullivan Place. He leftÂ no suicide note.
Swartz was a gifted programmer whoÂ helpedÂ develop the RSS at age 14. He then went on to start a company that wouldÂ eventually merge with Reddit, as well asÂ Demand Progress, a political actionÂ group that campaigns againstÂ Internet censorship.
He was arrestedÂ in 2011 for allegedlyÂ downloading more than four million academic journalsÂ with intent to distributeÂ them free of charge through file-sharingÂ sites. HeÂ faced up to 35 years in prison if convicted.
In the past, the 26-year-old hinted at aÂ battle with depression, according to Gawker.
In a 2007 speech, the Internet advocateÂ Â described himself as being ‘miserable’ after moving to San Francisco when hisÂ company was purchased by the publishing giant Conde Nast.
‘I couldn’t stand San Francisco. I couldn’tÂ stand office life,’ he said at the time. ‘I took a long Christmas vacation. IÂ got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back onÂ Monday morning, I was asked to resign.’
In a blog post from later that year, SwartzÂ went into further detail regarding his bout with depression, writing:
‘Your face falls. Perhaps you cry. You feelÂ worthless. You wonder whetherÂ it’s worth going on. Everything you think aboutÂ seems bleak – the things you’ve done, the things you hope to do, the peopleÂ around you.