The death of two Internet activists has authorities and Internet conspiracy theorists concerned. According to the New York Post, 36-year-old Internet activist James Dolan (seen right) hung himself on December 26 in the Gowanus Inn and Yard in Brooklyn. The death was eerily similar to the 2013 suicide of Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz (seen left), who hung himself in Washington, D.C.
Both men have been described as online activists and people are working to piece together the connections between their deaths and whether foul play was involved. “Aaron did not commit suicide,” said Swartz's father. “He was killed by the government. Someone who made the world a better place was pushed to his death by the government.”
Swartz, 26, was known as an online activist. He spoke out in favor of the First Amendment and was against the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill that he believed affected the freedom of speech online. Following his death, a hack occurred that appeared to be an homage for him. “Our reasons for this attack are very simple,” Anonymous said in a statement after the attack. “You’ve imprisoned or either censored our people. We will not tolerate things as such . . . When the lions roar you will hear them. And when it’s feeding time you’ll be our dinner. Aaron Swartz this is for you.”
Dolan, the 36-year-old founder of SecureDrop (a tool helpful for whistleblowers to share files), was also a digital activist, working to help non-profits and reporters expose government corruption. But as the New York Post notes, he was not as high-profile as Swartz. If anything, he had virtually no digital footprint. “He was very humble and very private,” said a close associate who didn't want to be identified by the newspaper. “He wouldn’t have wanted anyone to talk about him, so we are respecting that now.”
The source also dismissed that the deaths were in any way a reflection of anti-hacker or anti-whistleblower activity. The source shared that they were "totally unfounded and false conspiracies" and said that Dolan wasn't tied to WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks, however, tweeted a message of condolence to both Dolan and Swartz, underscoring a possible connection between the two men: "Second developer of WikiLeaks inspired submission system "SecureDrop", security expert James Dolan, aged 36, has tragically died. He is said to have committed suicide. The first, Aaron Swartz, is said to have taken his own life at age 26, after being persecuted by US prosecutors."
[Photo: Getty Images, Freedom of the Press Foundation]