The Internet’s Own Boy: Review

Film Title: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
Publisher: FilmBuff, Participant Media, Luminant Media
Release Date: 27/06/2014
Tside Rating: Tside Rating: 4 out of 5Tside Rating: 4 out of 5Tside Rating: 4 out of 5Tside Rating: 4 out of 5Tside Rating: 4 out of 5

Promo Image for The Internet’s Own Boy


The Internet’s Own Boy is an American documentary film, written, filmed and produced by Brian Knappenberger, which focuses on the life of the late political activist and software programmer, Aaron Swartz.

Aaron Swartz was gifted from a very early age, using computers at the age of six, before going on to develop his own software programs from scratch.

By the age of 14, he was awarded by Harvard University, and Swartz went on to help create RSS, the ubiquitous tool that allows users to subscribe to online information.

Ahead of his time, Swartz created a website that looked strikingly similar to one of the internet’s most viewed websites today, Wikipedia and a database where anyone could upload and edit articles of information, years before Wikipedia went live.

Soon after Swartz went on to help market and distribute creative commons, which benefited publishers and authors everywhere around the world, and still do today.

As the film progresses, its clear that Swartz had always felt passionate about information and the public’s free and civil right to liberate themselves by gaining knowledge and questioning those who dictate what information is fed to them.

aaron swartz

The film documents Swartz’s rise to internet folk hero, covering his desire to make valuable public information free and accessible.

These issues are still relevant today with public access being restricted in most third world countries and freedom of information still a major issue, especially in America.

The film is a harrowing tale of the oppressive forces that exist and takes you on a journey, showing Swartz metamorphosis from an acclaimed computer programmer to world-leading-hacktivist. This juxtaposition leads to a Shakespearean twist of fate, which in turn, ultimately leads to his downfall.

Swartz, whose tireless work and campaigning reshaped the internet and clarified copyright law, became something of a martyr in the cause for freedom of information. After the federal government built up a case file, the four state felony charges Swartz was originally charged with soon rose to 14.

As a result, Swartz found himself in an ever more hopeless situation, facing a possible 35 years in prison if found guilty. Before Aaron could put forward his defence at trial, he was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment, after committing suicide.

It is a tragic ending to a life that had so much potential for political change and leaves you wondering why Swartz chose to end things this way and why he was ever considered an enemy of the state, when all he did was seek the truth and urge others to do the same.

The film effectively raises these questions and carefully leaves imprints on your consciousness.

Made up of home videos, news footage, interviews and testimonies from family and close friends, this film builds a stunning portrait of Swartz and his legacy. It is perhaps one of the finer documentaries I’ve seen in recent years.

from Tside