SXSW Review: The Internet’s Own Boy


Director:Brian Knappenberger

Cast:Aaron Swartz

Running Time:105.00


This is the David and Goliath story of Aaron Swartz vs. the U.S. Government. Brian Knappenberger brings us The Internets Own Boy, a touching documentary that tells the heartbreaking story of American programming wiz- kid turned activist Aaron Swartz.

I was very moved by this film.  Aaron Swartz' story is an important lesson in the human condition and how everyone has their limits, even extraordinary people such as Swartz. This film chronicles parts of Swartz upbringing through interviews from his family and friends as well as archival home video footage to the two year legal battle vs. the US government.

Swartz started programming at a young age, as early as three on his parent's old computer, and his passion for programming grew from there. Most people who use the internet should already be aware of Swartz's programming work. He is the co-founder of Reddit and co-creator of RSS, an important internet protocol used on many websites.

After the success of Reddit, Swartz moved to California and was rewarded financially, but money was never what drove Swartz in the first place. So when the cubicle life consumed him, he quit and started his path of political and internet activism.

The Internet's Own Boy did a great job of filling in the viewer the timeline of Swartz life and his new ventures that seemed to happen every couple months, which include founding companies such as Creative Commons and Demand Progress.

This film sheds light on the genius that is Aaron Swartz and his fight against government censorship. Swartz was a key influence in overturning SOPA, a controversial legislative bill that, in Swartz's eyes, threatened free speech and expression, the things America was founded on.  The film also chronicles Swartz's legal issues with the U.S. government after they fined and arrested him for illegally downloading academic journals from JSTOR, a digital library that charges people money to download academic scholarly journals. This is what led to his suicide two years later.

This documentary explores the political agenda of the U.S. government and shows the unfair treatment of Swartz, as he is made more of an example to other political hacktavists as a means to obey U.S. censorship. This is an important film that needs to be seen by all American people. It is a story of a gentle soul who left his mark early but left the world too soon.


About Matt Kerwin

Matt Kerwin

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