“The Internet’s Own Boy” revisits tragic life of Aaron Swartz – Tech Times

At 26, Aaron Swartz had accomplished more than most people twice his age could ever dream of doing. He was a central figure in the development of RSS and one of the people who founded Reddit, one of the biggest, most active online communities in the world. He then moved on to help establish Creative Commons, the very same thing that made him the subject of the government’s ire.

A millionaire at 20, Swartz could have lived the life of comfort and convenience that many desire. But he wasn’t after the money or the glitz and glamour of having everything at the snap of your fingers. Swartz had a brilliance with computers, but he was more than a geeky programmer hoping to make apps that could make him the next Mark Zuckerberg. He used his skill to strengthen the fight for a more open and democratic Internet, one of the last major vestiges of his activism being the surprising move by Congress to back down from passing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which threatened to censor far more than files that infringed upon owners’ copyrights.

Swartz’s was a good life that could have been. That is what filmmaker Brian Knappenberger wants to portray in his gripping documentary about the life of a child prodigy, “self-aware” and, at times, “ornery,” whose death by his own hand has done little to suppress the call for Internet freedom from growing louder. “The Internet’s Own Boy” is not what critics call the story of a martyr. Knappenberger says the memory of Swartz lives on for the film to become a martyrology.

“Why were they going after this kid and, at the same time, nobody of any substance in the banking scandal sees the inside of a courtroom?” says the director. “I think it makes you start to wonder about priorities.”

It’s not surprising for “The Internet’s Own Boy” to begin with footage that paints the charming picture of an intelligent child growing up in suburban Chicago. Swartz, who taught himself how to read at the age of three, was a precocious kid who was never satisfied with what his teachers taught him in school. He stopped going eventually, preferring to attend developer conferences where his colleagues were astonished to find that the intelligent person they’ve been emailing was a 14-year-old whiz kid.

Swartz’s success with RSS and Reddit brought him a fortune he turned his back on. He cared more for issues about public access, which would lead him to his tragic end. On Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, Swartz evaded a 35-year imprisonment and a $1 million fine by hanging himself from the ceiling of his New York City apartment. His alleged crime? Breaking into the paywall-protected database of JSTOR and downloading 4.8 million files, or nearly the site’s entire library of academic documents. His friend and science fiction novelist Cory Doctorow calls it “taking too many books out of the library.”

Knappenberger, who also filmed “We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists,” enlisted the help of Swartz’s family, friends and supporters, though his requests for interview were repeatedly turned down by the government, who all come together to create an emotionally harrowing picture of Swartz’s life, one that will also get viewers thinking about those who considered Swartz an enemy.

“The Internet’s Own Boy” revisits tragic life of Aaron Swartz – Tech Times

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *