Funeral services held for internet prodigy Aaron Swartz

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Funeral services were held Tuesday in north suburban Highland Park for Aaron Swartz, 26.  He was a computer programmer, writer, political organizer and internet activist.

Swartz took his own life last Friday, just weeks before he was to go on trial for allegedly stealing millions of journal articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer archive.  The charges could have sent him to prison for decades if he had been convicted.

There was an overpowering sense of loss today at the North Suburban Lubavitch Chabad Central Avenue Synagogue, where his family, friends and colleagues said a final goodbye to Swartz.

“It’s a horrible thing that this tragedy took place,” said congregation member Les Blau.  “The pain is palpable throughout all the speeches that you may have heard or witnessed.”

The tragic end of one of the digital world’s brightest stars has drawn national and international attention.

Swartz pushed the envelope when it came to the cause of Internet freedom.  Experts say he pushed the legal boundaries as an Internet information activist, believing that all data and information should be available free of charge for the betterment of people everywhere.

Swartz burst on the Internet scene at the age of 14, co-writing the now indispensable computer code known as RSS, among many other things. At one point, he formed a company that merged with Reddit, the popular news and information site.

But Swartz suffered from depression, and family and friends are now pointing a finger squarely at the Justice Department and federal prosecutors for contributing to his death.  In a written statement his family blames “an exceptionally harsh array of charges” for creating a desperate situation.

In response to the tragedy, MIT President L. Rafael Reif has called for an internal probe.

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