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Swartz and other activists objected on the grounds it would give the government too many broad powers to censor and squelch legitimate Web communication.
But Swartz faced trouble in July 2011, when he was indicted by a federal grand jury of wire fraud, computer fraud and other charges related to allegedly stealing millions of academic articles and journals from a digital archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
According to the federal indictment, Swartz - who was a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics - used MIT’s computer networks to steal more than 4 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive and journal distribution service.
JSTOR did not press charges against Swartz after the digitized copies of the articles were returned, according to media reports at the time.
Swartz, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, faced 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted. He was released on bond. His trial was scheduled to start later this year.
Swartz’s funeral is scheduled for Tuesday in Highland Park, Illinois. On Saturday, online tributes to Swartz flooded across cyberspace.
“Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill and intelligence about people and issues,” Doctorow, co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing, wrote on the site.
Doctorow wrote that Swartz had “problems with depression for many years.”
Swartz also played a role in building the news-sharing website Reddit, but left the company after it was acquired by Wired magazine owner Conde Nast. Recalling that time of his life, Swartz described his struggles with dark feelings.
In an online account of his life and work, Swartz said he became “miserable” after going to work at the San Francisco offices of Wired after Reddit was acquired.
“I took a long Christmas vacation,” he wrote. “I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign.”
Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited as the most important figure in the creation of the World Wide Web, commemorated Swartz in a Twitter post on Saturday.
“Aaron dead,” he wrote. “World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”