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The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)

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10/10: A deeply moving and very disturbing documentary
Wednesday, December 3, 2014

In a world where idealism is a scarce commodity, Aaron Swartz stood out. A computer programmer and political and social activist, Aaron had a quaint goal — to make the world a better place, to help us live our lives so that they make a difference. Ultimately, however, though he tried to save the world, he could not save himself. On January 11, 2013, Swartz, age 26, hanged himself in his New York apartment, after having been vigorously pursued by the U.S. Department of Justice for two years for hacking MIT's computer network and downloading 4.8 million documents from the JSTOR database, a private corporation that charged exorbitant fees for non-subscribers to view online research.Swartz's story is told in a deeply moving and very disturbing documentary The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, directed by Brian Knappenberger. The film traces Swartz' life from the time he was a three-year-old prodigy...

8/10: Engaging and enlightening. A call to arms
Friday, August 22, 2014

On January 11th 2013 Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who was facing a maximum of 50 years jail time and $1 million fine for the crime of illegally downloading academic journals, committed suicide. I was in the midst of the initial outcry and mourning on reddit.com, a website that lists him as a co-founder. I regret that I had no idea who he was, what he did, or why he died. Although the unfathomable idea of the weight of the punishment was understandable, it seemed like it meant more than that. It wasn't until I saw this documentary, Brian Knappenberger's The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, where I finally found out more about him.It is a film that treats Aaron with a bittersweet fondness, as if he is a true one-of-a-kind lost forever, though there are many like him. Instead of trying to pretend that it isn't...

8/10: On liberty and naiveté
Sunday, February 8, 2015

Aaron Swartz was an internet hacker and activist who committed suicide under pressure from a U.S. government attempt to prosecute him for a crime (stealing data) where he meant no harm and sought to make no money. I certainly agree that the legal case against Swartz was absurdly overcooked; but the film throws up a number of interesting issues about theories of government in general, and the techno-utopian world-view that Schwarz subscribed to. Technological advance can make previous ways of doing things obsolete, and measures of control superfluous and/or unnecessary. They threaten vested interests (or, more probably, they threaten to replace an old elite whose interests are vested in the old technology with a new one unencumbered by attachment to the past). One can believe these changes are good in themselves; one can believe the death of the old control structures is an added bonus; one can believe that the changes are good precisely because they...

8/10: An Important Film about a Complex Internet Pioneer's Short Life and Tragic Death
Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Internet's Own Boy was very well-received at its showing in Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film is simultaneously a biography of the tragic death of internet pioneer Aaron Swartz and at the same time a fascinating history of the development of the online political movements that he devoted his life to. The film tells a fascinating story of young genius deeply involved in the early development of the internet including co-founding of Reddit. His genius is unquestionable. The film really provides a tribute to a talented young man and presents a strong case that he was unjustly and selectively prosecuted and overcharged by an overzealous prosecutor. This prosecution seems to have provoked his suicide.But the film is unable to establish any real emotional distance from its subject in order to present an objective full picture of Aaron. Early scenes show home movie pictures of Aaron as an adorable precocious toddler playing with his brothers...

9/10: In the age of piracy, SOPA, and net neutrality, this is a must see
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When a documentary can illicit tears of both anger and sadness, you know it must be doing something right. Such is the case with The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz was one of the co-founders of the internet's so called front page; Reddit. He was also one of the most outspoken and inspired activists fighting to keep the internet free, protecting the rights and privileges of the American people whose government was trying tirelessly to censor the free speech granted by the web. Tragically, he took his own life at the age of 26 due to the constant pressures and endless scrutiny and indictment placed onto him by the American government. This film chronicles his tragically short life and attempts to put Aaron's name out there for the sake of carrying on his legacy. There aren't a whole lot of documentaries or films in general out there that I would...

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