Prominent security developer and digital rights activist Jacob Appelbaum has denied allegations of “sexual misconduct” that led to him stepping down from his position at The Tor Project.
“In the past few days, a calculated and targeted attack has been launched to spread vicious and spurious allegations against me,” Appelbaum wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “The accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false.”
“I am prepared to use legal channels, if necessary, to defend my reputation from these libelous accusations.” (Scroll down for the full statement.)
Until Thursday, Appelbaum worked as a developer for The Tor Project. The organisation is responsible for Tor, the network that lets users access the “dark web” internet anonymously. On Saturday, executive director Shari Steele published a statement saying that Appelbaum stepped down after “an extensive internal deliberation and discussion,” and after The Tor Project spoke to some of those accusing him.
“Over the past several days, a number of people have made serious, public allegations of sexual mistreatment by former Tor Project employee Jacob Appelbaum,” Steele wrote. “These types of allegations were not entirely new to everybody at Tor; they were consistent with rumours some of us had been hearing for some time. That said, the most recent allegations are much more serious and concrete than anything we had heard previously.”
Appelbaum says that he will now be focusing on his doctoral work: “Given the way these accusations have been handled, I had little choice but to resign from my position as an advocate at the Tor Project and devote my full attention to completing my doctoral work on cryptography at the Technical University of Eindhoven.”
The 33-year-old developer lives in Berlin, Germany, and is a prominent figure in digital rights and “internet freedom” circles. He is also a sometime journalist — reporting in 2013 that Germany believes that the United States tapped the phone of its chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Several people in the cryptography and security communities publicly accused Appelbaum of sexual misconduct over the last few days. There are no reports of legal or criminal complaints against him, however. A website has also been set up to collect accounts of Appelbaum’s alleged harassment. It is not clear who set up the site. Again, no one on that website says they brought any kind of legal claim against him. (Business Insider has chosen not to link to the site because it consists entirely of unverified allegations that are defamatory to Applebaum.)
The Tor Project says that alleged victims should speak to law enforcement. “We recognise that many people in the information security and Internet freedom communities don’t necessarily trust law enforcement,” Shari Steele said in her statement. We encourage those people to seek advice from people they trust, and to do what they believe is best for them.”
Here’s the full statement from Jacob Appelbaum:
Berlin, June 6, 2016
In the past few days, a calculated and targeted attack has been launched to spread vicious and spurious allegations against me. Given the way these accusations have been handled, I had little choice but to resign from my position as an advocate at the Tor Project and devote my full attention to completing my doctoral work on cryptography at the Technical University of Eindhoven.
Vague rumours and smear campaigns against me are nothing new. As a longtime public advocate for free speech and a secure internet, there have been plenty of attempts to undermine my work over the years.
Now, however, these unsubstantiated and unfounded attacks have become so aggressive that I feel it’s necessary to set the record straight. Not only have I been the target of a fake website in my name that has falsely accused me of serious crimes, but I have also received death threats (including a Twitter handle entitled ‘TimeToDieJake’).
I think it’s extremely damaging to the community that these character-assassination tactics are being deployed, especially given their ugly history of being used against fellow members of the LGBT community. It pains me to watch the community to which I’ve dedicated so much of my life engage in such self-destructive behaviour. Nonetheless, I am prepared to use legal channels, if necessary, to defend my reputation from these libelous accusations.
I want to be clear: the accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false.
Inevitably, there may have been moments in my professional or private life when I may have inadvertently hurt or offended others’ feelings. Whenever I was aware of these instances, I have, and will continue to, apologise to the friends and colleagues in question and to continually learn how to be a better person. Though the damage to my reputation caused by these allegations alone is impossible to undo, I nonetheless take the concerns of the Tor community seriously. To dispel any further rumours, to the best of my knowledge, the Tor network is not ‘compromised.’
I’ve dedicated my life as a journalist, activist, and longtime member of the Tor Project to advocating for the transparency of public processes and to speaking out about the necessity of privacy, security, and anonymity. These are ideals that I will continue to uphold, despite the vicious campaign that is currently being waged against me.