Critics want Richard Stallman not to return to Free Software Foundation

The controversial founder of the Free Software Foundation returns to the foundation. Stallman left in 2019 after controversial statements about one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims. His return has been widely criticized. At least 100 people are again asking for his resignation.

Stallman announced his return in a video call on Twitter. In it he says that he is back on the board and that “not everyone will be happy with my return”, but that he has no intention of stepping down a second time. His return has been met with much criticism. At least 100 people from the free software community signed a letter asking for Stallman to be removed again and the entire board of the Free Software Foundation to leave.

In the open letter, critics write that Stalmann is a dangerous force in the community and that he has shown himself to be a ‘misogynist, validist and transphobic’. The letter was signed by people from the Gnome Foundation, former FSF board members, and past presidents of the Open Source Initiative and the Apache Software Foundation, among others.

Stalmann founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985. In 2019, he left MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and as chairman and board member of the Free Software Foundation after controversial statements about a victim of sex offender and child abuser Jeffrey Epstein. He made those statements in an internal listserv thread of the computer lab.

After it became known that Epstein had made donations to MIT, discussion arose in an internal computer lab mail thread that Epstein’s involvement with MIT had been swept under the rug, including by the then deceased former professor Marvin Minsky, who was killed by a of the victims have been accused of rape.

Stallman defended Minsky in the thread, stating that the underage victim likely volunteered after Epstein ordered her to have sex with Minsky. When a college student pointed out to Stallman that the victim may have been raped at age 17, Stallman said: “It’s morally absurd to define rape in a way that depends on small details, such as what country she was in and whether the victim was 18 years old. or seventeen.”

Portions of the conversation were put on Medium by Selam Gano, a robotics engineer at MIT. In a 2019 blog, Stallman denies defending Epstein and says there was a misunderstanding.