Stallman steps down MIT, FSF posts

New Age . Online Desk | Published: 14:47, Sep 18,2019


A photograph of Richard Stallman. —

Famed computer scientist and activist Richard Stallman has resigned from his positions at Free Software Foundation and Massachusetts Institute of Technology over the recent comments he made concerning Jeffrey Epstein’s victims.

Stallman, also the founder of free and open-source software movement and Free Software Foundation, resigned as the president of the FSF as well as from its board of directors.He is best known for initiation of the GNU operating system in 1983, as well as for his work campaigning for the use of free software.

Last week it emerged that Stallman had cast doubt upon the reports that Artificial Intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky had sexually assaulted one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. In an email dump 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 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, according to online news media.

‘I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT,’ Stallman wrote in a blog post, ‘I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations.’ Stallman has been affiliated with MIT since 1971, when he first became a programmer at the university’s Artificial Intelligence Lab.

‘On September 16, 2019, Richard M Stallman, founder and president of the Free Software Foundation, resigned as president, and from its board of directors,’ according to the FSF website.

Stallman’s resignation comes as MIT grapples with its ties to Epstein, who donated as much as $800,000 to university related projects over the years. MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito resigned from the organisation earlier this month after it emerged that he had gone to significant lengths to conceal Epstein’s donations, often marking them as anonymous in internal records. A group of prominent academics had previously signed a letter in support of Ito.

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