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The Internet’s Own Boy

Documentary of the life of Aaron Schwartz, a computer prodigy who became a force for open access to information on the internet. Aaron’s family, and the friends who knew him well, look back on his life and what he accomplished – one of the developers of the RSS feed, co-founder of the social news site Reddit, probably an early employer of the concept of “big data” to understand how people could access the power of information from the internet; he was as well co-founder of a number of social activist sites (and founder of Demand Access) dedicated to free public access. Schwartz committed suicide at the age of 26 while being indicted on a number of felony charges related to computer hacking. The story is simultaneously sad and enraging and thought-provoking.   The film raises a lot of questions about the use and deployment of governmental power as well as the more tangible questions about transparency and public access. I could not help thinking about these three wonderful movies – We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks; Citizenfour, the story of Ed Snowden; and this one – and how all together they provide very compelling insight into the tension among the various camps associated with open versus restricted access to information and the steps each will take to ensure that they protect their positions. Big thumbs up for this movie and for a young man who is such an inspiration for activists and those committed to fair and open access. I wished that there were more about the people who spent enormous energy trying to prosecute Schwartz, but most refused to provide information, which is rather unfortunate. I recommend watching the three movies mentioned here for different and engaging insights into a very complex issue. (2014, 4 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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