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Who was Aaron Swartz? Was he removed from the Reddit founders' list?

Jane Corscadden October 6, 2020
aaron swartz reddit
Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Who was Aaron Swartz? Was he removed from the list of original Reddit founders, as the latest drama storm claims? We’re here to break down the Reddit controversy and try to make sense of it all.

Who was Aaron Swartz?

Aaron Swartz was an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, writer, political organiser, and internet hacktivist.

He believed in using the internet to express free speech. Swartz was involved in the development of RSS, the organisation Creative Commons, and was believed to be a co-founder of social news website Reddit.

In 2011, Swartz was indicted on federal data-theft charges for allegedly breaking into the MIT computer system and downloading millions of documents from research database JSTOR.

Swartz sadly died by suicide a few days after rejecting a plea bargain.

Was Aaron Swartz removed from the Reddit founders’ list?

Today a thread emerged on Reddit claiming Swartz had recently been removed from the website’s list of co-founders.

However, commenters were quick to dismantle this claim. On the earliest version of Reddit, commenters say Swartz’s name wasn’t ever included.

Was Aaron Swartz one of Reddit’s founder?

This is where the controversy lies. Reddit’s origin story goes like this: the site was created by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, who were college roommates at the University of Virginia. They came up with and started Reddit in their senior year of college.

Aaron Swartz joined Reddit six months after it was founded.

Reddit merged with Swartz’s company, Infogami between November 2005-January 2006. Swartz then became an equal owner of the resulting company, Not A Bug.

Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

For Paul Graham, cofounder of Y Combination who worked with Swartz, Huffman and Ohanian, Aaron Swartz is right to call himself a Reddit founder.

Speaking on Reddit a few years ago, Graham said: “The company behind Reddit was a merger of two startups…and in that situation the founders of both startups are considered founders of the combined company.”

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Jane is a freelance journalist from Belfast, Northern Ireland specialising in news, culture and politics. She studied Politics at Queen’s University Belfast before completing a Journalism MA at the University of Ulster. Always trawling social media and keeping up to date with the latest trends and crazes, her main interest lies in digital culture and internet trends.