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US justice system ‘overreach’ blamed in suicide of Internet-freedom activist

This weekend, the Internet world mourned one of its heroes, Aaron Swartz, 26, a prodigy, programmer and well-known Internet activist, who hung himself in his New York apartment on Friday. Swartz was to face an imminent trial for having downloaded some 4 million articles from JSTOR, a not-for-profit scholarly archive, from the MIT campus which hosts the archive. He faced extraordinarily severe charges – see here and here – carrying a possible penalty of 35 years in prison, and over $1 million dollars in fines. Swartz was reported to suffer from serious depression, but some including his immediate family have explicitly alleged that the pending charges contributed to his suicide. (Serious depression is more common than one might think – see “Global survey reveals impact of disability.”) 


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