Computer Scientist Richard Stallman Resigns from MIT CSAIL over Jeffrey Epstein Controversy

The open software pioneer has left his role over what he says is a "misunderstanding."

Richard Stallman, a computer scientist, and open software pioneer has resigned as a visiting scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), after controversial comments he made about one of Jeffrey Epstein's victims.

In emails sent to a department list, Stallman described a victim of sex trafficking as "entirely willing." 

Stallman has also stepped down as president and board director of the Free Software Foundation, a non-profit that he founded in 1985.

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Stepping down

MIT is facing pressure over its connections to Jeffrey Epstein. It was recently uncovered that MIT's Media Lab received millions in funding from Epstein, the millionaire and accused sex trafficker who was recently found dead in his prison cell while awaiting his trial.

As The Daily Beast reports, Richard Stallman, who was a visiting scientist at MIT, has done little to ease this pressure by defending the accused sex trafficker as well as child pornography in general.

As TechCrunch reports, over the last 15 years, Stallman has called for the legalization of child pornography, as well as the abolishment of age of consent laws on his personal blog.

In his MIT resignation statement, which is also posted on his personal blog, Stallman said the following:

“To the MIT Community, I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT. I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings.”

Growing pressure on MIT

The pressures that Stallman is referring to are largely about the $7.5 million in donations for MIT from Epstein — more than what was previously disclosed.

As a result, MIT Media Lab's director, Joi Ito, resigned last week with MIT announcing an investigation into the Media Lab’s connections to Epstein.

Stallman's email was made public last week by mechanical engineer and MIT alum Selam Jie Gano. The entire email thread was published on Vice.

Stallman wrote that one of Epstein's sex trafficking victims, who had been ordered to have sex with late MIT professor Marvin Minsky, had likely “presented herself to him as entirely willing.”

Stallman is known as an activist and open software advocate. He advocates for "community over copyright," and says software should be free to distribute and modify. 

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