Aaron Schwartz, a computer whiz and Stanford dropout who founded a company that merged with social news website Reddit as well as an activist who opposed government regulation of the Internet, was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment. A spokeswoman for New York’s Medical Examiner said26-year-old Swartz hanged himself. He was found Friday. Swartz’s death was confirmed by his attorney, Elliot Peters, in an email to MIT’s The Tech newspaper. Swartz was a prodigy who as a young teenager helped create the initial programming code for the RSS news feeds used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for computer users. He also directed the anti-censorship political action group Demand Progress and fought to keep online access to content free. Arrested in 2011 and charged with stealing scientific journals from an archive at MIT, he had pleaded not guilty to charges including wire fraud and was scheduled to stand trial in federal court next month. If convicted he could have faced a prison term of 50 years or more and up to $4 million in fines. Supporters noted that the MIT archive did not press charges and the documents were returned. Author and online activist Cory Doctorow suggested “The fact that the U.S. legal apparatus decided he belonged behind bars for downloading scholarly articles without permission is as neat an indictment of our age — and validation of his struggle — as you could ask for.” (Photo by Fred Benenson / Flickr)

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