The Internet’s Own Boy: Film Review

ilm 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



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 attending a peaceful protest in Washington DC.


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. Journalists are expected to pay for information on key federal cases, something that the American media have been quick to criticize.

The film is a harrowing tale of the oppressive forces that be. The narrative takes you on an emotional journey, showing Swartz’ metamorphosis from acclaimed child computer prodigy into a world-leading-hacktivist. This juxtaposition leads to a Shakespearean twist of fate, which in turn, ultimately lead to Swartz unjust end.

Swartz, whose tireless work and campaigning reshaped the internet and clarified copyright law, became something of a martyr for freedom of information in America. When proceedings were active the federal government built up a case file, the four state felony charges that 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 defense 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, it leaves you wondering why Swartz chose to end things this way. Furthermore it beckons the question, why was he ever considered an enemy of the state, when all he did was seek to educate the masses and give greater transparency to Government policy.

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

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