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Computer Scientist Richard Stallman Resigns From MIT Over Epstein Comments

Stallman said the "most plausible scenario" is that one of the trafficking victims "presented herself to him as entirely willing."

by Joseph Cox
Sep 17 2019, 12:15am

Image: Michael Debets/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Famed free software advocate and computer scientist Richard Stallman has resigned from MIT, according to an email he published online. The resignation comes after Stallman made comments about victims of child trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, including that the victims went along with the abuse willingly.

"I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT," Stallman wrote in the email, referring to MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. "I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations."

Stallman also resigned as president from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) as well as from the organization's board of directors, FSF announced shortly after.

Last week, Motherboard published the full email thread in which Stallman wrote that the "most plausible scenario" is that an underage victim who was forced to have sex with AI pioneer Marvin Minsky "presented herself to him as entirely willing." Stallman also argued about the definition of "rape" and whether the term applies to the victims.

When someone else in the email thread pointed out that victim Virginia Giuffre was 17 when she was forced to have sex with Minsky, Stallman said "it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17."

Stallman is known as a pioneer of the free software community and movement, which is closely related to the open source movement.

Update: This piece has been updated to include FSF’s announcement and to include additional context to Stallman’s comments and affiliations.