Movie review: Documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy” looks at short life of online rights advocate

By
From the June 26, 2014 edition

“The Internet’s Own Boy” is the story of the short life of Aaron Swartz, a prodigiously gifted programmer and information advocate who committed suicide at the age of 26 under the shadow of federal prosecution.

Through interviews with family, friends and colleagues, we get a portrait of the internet artist as a young man. Swartz was reading by the age of three. At 14, he was part of the group that authored the standards for RSS syndication. At 15, he helped launch Creative Commons. Oh, and he was one of the co-founders of Reddit.

Swartz later was an active advocate for the free and open sharing of information on the web — still a timely and ongoing issue. “Everyone has a voice now,” Swartz said. “It’s just a matter of who gets heard.”

Swartz was eventually prosecuted for gathering an archive of academic research documents via MIT’s network. What he intended to do with them was unclear, but Swartz clearly had a belief that their access should be easy (and free).

“Internet’s Own Boy” is both tragic and eye-opening. Go see it and get angry.