Aaron Swartz Dead: MIT Complicit In Web Activist's Suicide, Family Claims

The family of an internet activist who killed himself on Friday have accused prosecutors and officials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of being complicit in his death.

Aaron Swartz, 26, who helped to co-found Reddit and was an outspoken proponent of the freedom of information online, hanged himself in his New York apartment.

He was noted for helping to create the open RSS standard at just 14 years old, and had worked to promote Internet freedom for more than a decade.

At the time of his death Swartz was facing 13 felony charges related to his alleged intent to make millions of academic papers available for free.

Prosecutors said the papers, downloaded from the JSTOR paid archive, were downloaded illegally and would have been posted online.

Swartz's trial was set to begin in February.

In a statement, his family said that his death was "the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach".

"Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community's most cherished principles."

MIT released a statement announcing it would conduct an investigation:

"I want to express very clearly that I and all of us at MIT are extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. It pains me to think that MIT played any role in a series of events that have ended in tragedy," MIT president L. Rafael Reif said in the statement.

"Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT."

Swartz's death was mourned online over the weekend by thousands of prominent internet figures and millions of users.

Academics took to Twitter to share academic papers for free after Swartz's death, in a show of support for the late activist.

Meanwhile, creator of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee said:

If you've been affected by the issues in this article, please call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.