The Story of Aaron Swartz
Feature-length Documentary by Brian Knappenberger
Moving and maddening in almost equal measure, Brian Knappenberger’s “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” is a devastating meditation on what can happen when a prescient thinker challenges corporate interests and the power of the state.
“The Internet’s Own Boy” traces the rise and fall of a tech industry prodigy.
Aaron Swartz established himself as a force to be reckoned with as co-founder of Reddit, one of the largest social media and news aggregator sites online to this day. Despite a profitable job offer at Conde Nast, Swartz rejected corporate culture in favour of pursuing a democratic Internet in the interest of information sharing over profit.
The Swartz we meet through the film is an admirable, kind-hearted young man adored by his friends, family and collaborators. Passionate about addressing societal problems and deeply influenced by World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee, who chose to share the Web freely instead of for-profit.
It was his work in social justice and political organising that placed him on a collision course with the US government. It ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare – a battle which ended with his suicide at the age of 26.
The film highlights the impact technology has on society’s access to information, the amount of control for-profit entities and the government dictate over this access, and ultimately questions whether Swartz’s efforts proved him to be defeated or victorious at the end of his life, though his impact on the open access movement is undeniable either way.