Richard Stallman, pioneer of free software, resigns from MIT and the Free Software Foundation

Stallman resigned following the publication of exchanges related to the consequences of the Epstein affair in the famous university, partly distorted by the American press.

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Richard Stallman at a conference in Saint-Etienne in 2008. NicoBZH – CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia commons

Richard Stallman, a leading creator of free software and founder of the powerful Free Software Foundation (FSF), announced his resignation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Monday, September 16, where he was teaching. Shortly after, the FSF announced the resignation of Mr. Stallman as president of the organization.

The reason is the publication of an e-mail sent by Mr. Stallman a week ago in a conversation at MIT, in a discussion loop about the repercussions of the Epstein affair in the big American university. The MIT campus has indeed been heatedly debated for several weeks, after revelations in the US media that the University's Media Lab had accepted large donations from Jeffrey Epstein, which the university had anonymized. Joy Ito, the former director of the Media Lab, resigned on September 8 following the revelation of the case.

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Another researcher involved

On social media and in several articles in the American press published in recent days, in the wake of the resignation of Joy Ito, Mr. Stallman is questioned, because he would have "affirmed that the victims of Epstein were consenting". In reality, this is not what Mr. Stallman wrote, as shown by the e-mail exchanges published online, which are the source of these claims.

Richard Stallman takes no defense of Jeffrey Epstein, but that of Mark Minsky, a specialist in artificial intelligence died in 2016 who was a prominent figure of the MIT. Testimony gathered by the investigators working on the Epstein file states that a young woman had sex with Mr. Minsky when she was 17 years old and Mr. Minsky 73, at the request of Ghislaine Maxwell, the close associate from Mr Epstein.

Read also Epstein scandal shakes MIT laboratory

In a list of internal e-mail discussions at MIT, the exchanges were published by a university student who called for Stallman's resignation, the latter protests against the way in which a call for protests was formulated. in MIT, which refers to Mr. Minsky's name.

"I see no reason not to believe the testimony (Of the young woman who explained having had a forced sexual relationship with Mr. Minsky) ", wrote Richard Stallman in an e-mail from the mailing list. "But the use of the term" sexual assault "implies that he used his physical strength to coerce her in one way or another, but that's not what (articles on the subject). Just that they had a sexual relationship. It is possible to imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible is that it has presented itself as entirely consenting. If Epstein forced her to have sex, he had every reason to tell him to hide (that she acted under duress). "

"I wrote that Epstein is a serial rapist"

Added to this message, very poorly perceived by his colleagues, as shown by several responses in the same exchange, previous statements Stallman's controversial. For example, he had previously said in favor of relaxing the laws on child pornography; the fact that the door of his office is adorned with a sign wishing "(welcome) to pretty girls" also annoyed.

An essential figure in the free software movement, whose computer code is freely searchable and modifiable, Richard Stallman is widely regarded as an "ultra" of freedom of expression and opposition to large Web companies and mass surveillance. . Often brittle, in his lyrics as in his speeches, loving to walk barefoot and by his own admission uncomfortable in social interactions, he joined the MIT in 1975.

On September 14, Richard Stallman posted a new message on his blog, along with an apology on the MIT mailing list. " (The media) totally distorted my words »he writes. "They write that I'm defending Epstein. Nothing could be further from the truth. I wrote that he was a serial rapist and that his place was in prison. (…) I regret not being able to prevent this misunderstanding. "


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