“Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,‘ is a documentary by Brian Kannpenberger. The film traces the story of Swartz, a programming prodigy and social/political activist from his childhood to adulthood and why he took his own life on Jan 11, 2013. He was 26 years old.
Swartz was surrounded by computers and the Internet from a very young age. In the film we see a precocious Swartz on the computer and how he loved teaching his younger siblings. He came to the spotlight during his teenage years for various projects, including his involvement in Creative Commons with Lawrence Lessig. He went on to create RSS, an Internet Protocol and co-founded Reditt that was acquired by Conde Nast.
Swartz joined Stanford and dropped out after a year and got involved in various projects, one of which ended up in a Federal legal case. This was when Swartz downloaded thousands of JSTOR documents at MIT in 2011. He was charged under the Computer Frauds and Abuse act with “the claim that Swartz had unauthorized access to MIT and JSTOR’s networks, according to The Boston Globe report. Swartz was arrest and charged with an “intent to commit a felony.” For the next two years Swartz was involved in a Federal case and then in January 2013 he took his own life.
In “Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,” Knappenberger takes a closer look att Swartz and the JSTOR documents he was downloading at MIT and how the Federal legal case came about. We hear from Swartz’s parents, his brothers, girlfriends, Lawrence Lessig and others. Why was Swartz charged under the Computer Frauds and Abuse Act? What is Aaron’s Law? You are left with more questions than answers after you see the film. Questions like what was Swartz going to do with the downloaded JSTOR documents? Why did MIT remain neutral in the Aaron Swartz case? Why did Swartz not embrace the startup life of Silicon Valley after co-founding and selling off Reditt?
We spoke to Knappenberger about how and why he came to this documentary on Aaron Swartz and his interest in technology and society. Knappenberger’s previous documentary “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists” (2012)