Richard Stallman resigns from MIT and the Free Software Foundation

Photo: tian2992 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Richard Stallman resigned Monday from his positions at MIT and the Free Software Foundation, following controvery over his remarks suggeting victims of Jeffrey Epstein were willing participants.

Last week it emerged that Stallman had cast doubt upon the reports that AI pioneer Marvin Minsky had sexually assaulted one of Epstein’s victims. In an email chain sent to the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) mailing list that was published by Motherboard, Stallman said that “the most plausible scenario” was that Epstein’s victim “presented herself to [Marvin Minsky] as entirely willing.”

"Stallman cast doubt over the use of the term “sexual assault”"

Stallman also described the distinction between a 17 or 18 year old victim as a “minor” detail, and suggested that it was an “injustice” to refer to it as a “sexual assault.” The emails first came to light after MIT alum Selam Jie Gano posted about them on Medium, and she said they would have been seen by undergraduates who are themselves 17 or 18.

Financier and convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein killed himself last month while awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges, amid speculation about his extensive contacts with America's scientific and political elites.

Stallman, who founded the FSF in 1985, said that headlines casting his remarks as a defense of Epstein were a mischaracterization. But they also drew attention to Stallman's long history of jocular sexism and now-repudiated past arguments in favor of permitting child pornography.

MIT's own entaglements with Epstein, and its apparent efforts to conceal them, recently led to the resignation of MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito. Harvard University is also under growing pressure to explain its links to Epstein.