Computer scientist and GNU creator, Richard Stallman, has resigned from his position at MIT over comments he made about the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
On his personal website, Stallman said that he was resigning “due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterisations”.
Stallman also stepped down as president of the Free Software Foundation, an organisation he founded in 1985.
The sudden resignation was on the back of remarks Stallman made about sexual assault allegations involving the late artificial intelligence researcher, Marvin Minsky.
Minsky had been embroiled in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal after a woman alleged that, at the age of 17, Epstein ordered her to have sex with various men, including Minsky.
In a leaked email chain, Stallman defended Minsky.
“I think 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 17,” Stallman said.
He also disagreed with the terms ‘sexual assault’ and ‘rape’ being used in this situation, because there has been no indication Minsky “applied force or violence”.
“We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing,” Stallman said.
“Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.”
Free software activist
Stallman has been a long-time advocate of free software.
Back in 1983, he launched the GNU Project – part social movement, part operating system – which aimed to let users freely run, modify, study, and share software.
He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship (AKA the ‘genius grant’) in 1990. And collected honorary doctorates and professorships from universities around the world.
Since 1994, Stallman has been a visiting scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
A political activist, he opposes government surveillance, advocates against climate change, and is a proponent of LGBTIQ rights.
Stallman has shown a penchant for pedantry, best illustrated by the extremely detailed rider for his public speaking engagements.
But Stallman’s need for specific linguistic definitions has occasionally led him to the apparent defense of pedophilia.
Mere days before his resignation from MIT and the Free Software Foundation, Stallman retracted a statement he made years earlier about how he “could not see anything wrong about sex between an adult and a child, if the child accepted it”.