Famed computer scientist Richard Stallman has resigned from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after attempting to discredit an alleged sex trafficking victim of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
In a terse email to his colleagues Monday, Stallman announced he was immediately stepping down from his position as a visiting scientist at the school’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, known as CSAIL.
“I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations,” he said. The note, which Stallman shared on his website, contained no further details on the matter.
Salam Jie Gano, a robotics engineer and recent MIT graduate, last week revealed in a Medium post an email thread in which Stallman cast doubt on allegations by Virginia Giuffre that she was among the young women that Epstein treated as sex slaves. In her 2016 testimony disclosed in a deposition unsealed last month and obtained by The Verge, Giuffre said she was forced to have sex in 2002 when she was 17 with late MIT professor Marvin Minsky, an expert in the field of artificial intelligence.
Stallman in his email sought to undermine her credibility, debating the definition of sexual assault and asserting that Giuffre likely gave her consent to a sexual encounter with Minsky, who would have been in his mid-70s at the time.
“We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that
she presented herself to him as entirely willing,” he wrote.
Stallman’s resignation is the latest fallout for MIT from the Epstein scandal. Earlier this month, Joi Ito abruptly left his position as head of the school’s Media Lab after The New Yorker reported that he had a hand in covering up Epstein-linked donations to the research facility. Epstein gave hefty sums to the Media Lab and directed other billionaires to do the same, according to the New Yorker exposé.
Gano said she obtained Stallman’s email from a friend who received it through the CSAIL mailing list in response to a planned student protest against MIT’s past relationship with Epstein. Shortly after Gano’s blog post appeared, Vice published a copy of the email thread containing Stallman’s statements.
Stallman has also resigned from his post as president of Boston’s Free Software Foundation, which he founded in 1985, and stepped down from its board of directors, the organization announced Monday. The group advocates for software users to have the right to study, run, copy, distribute and alter programs, rather than being bound by proprietary restrictions.
Epstein died in August by what has been ruled a suicide while jailed in New York on federal charges of sex trafficking minors. He was 66. Minsky died at age 88 in 2016.