Richard Stallman is the founder and President of the Free Software Foundation and creator of the GNU project, the force behind the GPL licenses. He’s also affiliated to MIT, having worked there in the past as an unpaid visiting scientist.
Stallman is also known to avoid anything that could be used to follow his actions. He considers mobile phones to be “tracking devices” so he refuses to own one. He also avoids browsing the Internet directly and uses an email-based proxy instead to read content from various websites. And he uses the Tor network in recent years, just to stay anonymous. And more importantly, he’s very active in making software freely available for everyone at no costs, fighting against copyrights, patents and more.
So, Stallman is a pretty important force in the ICT World. He has a lot of followers, a lot of admirers. Especially many students are happy with him as he made it possible for them to get software for free. How? Because Stallman promotes open source with the preference for the GPL license. And the GPL license is a license system that could forcibly be used to make other projects open source also, if those other projects use any GPL’d code…
And while open source has been popular before Stallman started the GNU project, it did become very popular after GNU. Especially after Linux became a thing and the world suddenly started to get new, free operating systems that could be ported to many different systems. And while there are many other open source licenses, the GNU license became popular as it is an open source license that adds restrictions on how you can use any of it. Some consider the GPL to be contagious as the use of GPL code in your project will force your project to be part GPL, thus forcing you to publish some of your own code as open source. Which was disliked by many companies. But the end users love it…
But recently, Stallman made a huge mistake. He wrote an email defending Jeffrey Epstein… Epstein was arrested on federal charges of sex trafficking of minors and has been convicted in the past for child molestation and prostitution. Serious charges but Epstein’s apparent suicide a month after his arrest put an end to the case, although a lot of people still doubt Epstein killed himself. It’s all too suspicious. And by defending Epstein, Stallman will now become part of any future conspiracy theories.
Which is bad, as Stallman is single, never married, never had children and we don’t even know if he has any sexual preference. He could be asexual, bisexual, hetero, gay, pansexual. Not that it matters, but people will start wondering about this now. After all, why would Stallman get involved in this whole affair.
So, what did Stallman say in his email? Well, from a source, I got this anonymized version:
The announcement of the Friday event does an injustice to Marvin Minsky: “deceased AI ‘pioneer’ Marvin Minsky (who is accused of assaulting one of Epstein’s victims)” The injustice is in the word “assaulting”. The term “sexual assault” is so vague and slippery that it facilitates accusation inflation: taking claims that someone did X and leading people to think of it as Y, which is much worse than X. The accusation quoted is a clear example of inflation. The reference reports the claim that Minsky had sex with one of Epstein’s harem. (See https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/9/20798900/marvin-minsky-jeffrey-epstein-sex-trafficking-island-court-records-unsealed.) Let’s presume that was true (I see no reason to disbelieve it). The word “assaulting” presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way, but the article itself says no such thing. Only that they had sex. We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates. I’ve concluded from various examples of accusation inflation that it is absolutely wrong to use the term “sexual assault” in an accusation. Whatever conduct you want to criticize, you should describe it with a specific term that avoids moral vagueness about the nature of the criticism.
I’ve underlined “Epstein’s harem” as Stallman refers to Epstein’s underage victims here in a very unflattering way. It’s a bad remark, and it’s costing him dearly. He clearly misunderstands the concept of “Consent” and ignored the age of consent, which is 18 in the US Virgin Islands. There, Marvin Minsky was accused of sexually assaulting a 17 year old girl. A girl who was apparently provided to him by Epstein.
And Minsky was a scientist working for MIT on artificial intelligence just like Stallman. Shortly after his death, he was accused by one of Epstein’s underage victims but as he was dead, there would not be any case anymore. After all, Minsky can’t defend himself, nor could he be a witness in this case.
So there’s a connection between Stallman and Epstein through MIT and Minsky. And there’s reason to believe that Epstein was part of a huge sex trafficking operation involving minors in the USA and possibly all over the World. An operation that would have to involve a lot of other high-placed people. This is bad when you consider the suspicious way in which Epstein died and the link to some very smart ICT people at MIT, who are working on artificial intelligence. There’s no evidence but there’s ‘smoke’. And smoke tends to mean something is on fire…
Stallman now quit his affiliation with MIT as his single email will damage his reputation and any of his affiliations. To protect MIT, he needed to quit immediately, even though MIT will still be in deep trouble because the rumors will become bigger after this. Because of Epstein and Minsky were related to MIT (Epstein donated a lot of money) there’s a good chance that people will start investigating things that are happening at MIT. After all, this is a place with a lot of young students, many minors, who might be involved in “improper extracurricular activities”. Especially the poorer students might be tempted if they get paid enough. It could be that there are many victims at MIT who don’t want to talk about it because they now have families and well-paying jobs. This will mostly be rumors and it’s not likely that we’ll discover i these rumors are true or not. But Stallman had to go to avoid any future rumors.
Stallman also quit as President of the FSF. And for the same reasons. The FSF will get hurt once Stallman’s reputation gets dragged through the dirt. And with the FSF, the GNU project and the GPL will also become damaged goods. This is because in the near future there will be a lot of attention to Stallman and questions if he harassed or even sexually abused any women. So he needs to distance himself from the FSF to protect it.
Stallman made one single mistake by writing that email. It has ended up in this Vice article, which is basically very damaging already. Reporters are trying to find out more about the connection between Epstein, Minsky, MIT and now Stallman. And maybe even the FSF. A post on Medium makes it even worse.
So, Stallman is falling after one huge mistake. One simple email that draws a shitstorm all over him now. And it is bad! And people will wonder about it. Many will continue to defend Stallman, as they should. He just posted his opinion, even though it’s a very bad opinion. He should not have said it, but he did. And now he pays the price and will need to stay quiet and out of the public eye for a while. As he’s 66 years old now, I would suggest that he’d just retire and will just have public speeches once in a while once the worst part of this all is over.
As for MIT, they will continue to have problems but not because of Stallman. Minsky, Epstein and a few other suspects have already caused enough damage. But as Minsky and Epstein are both dead, it’s very likely that they can get out of these problems as long as no new names pop up. Well, Stallman just popped up, but he’s clean, right? Right? Well, let’s hope so. Innocent until proven otherwise.
And the FSF will need to get a new President. And this president will likely have a different opinion on open source. It will change the FSF and their future. But it’s impossible to tell how they will change.
Still, there’s one more thing Stallman said in the past that will be used against him. On his website, he says something about Dutch paedophiles who created their own political party that would legalize sex with minors, under specific conditions. He said:
I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.
That won’t make him very popular and will make people more sceptical about his motives. His argument is basically that voluntary sex should be just fine. But no one questions that, hopefully. But people will question if minors can actually volunteer to have sex, assss in most cases they are pressured and forced into having sex. Sometimes by peer pressure, or by adults bringing presents and money. Because it’s so hard to tell if someone really volunteered, we will have to assume the worst when children have sexual relations as their safety comes first.
So, the Epstein affair now caught Stallman and there will be a lot of conspiracy theories in the future. Some will be complete crazy stories and it’s very likely that Stallman isn’t involved in aaaaanaughty business. It’s very likely that he just said something stupid and now regrets it. But he’s falling now and people who try to stop his fall might end up falling with him…
Which is sad, as Stallman was a positive force in the computer world. This whole thing will only create more victims and won’t resolve anything.
Dear Stallman, Retire in Peace.