Former Tor Project employee and well-known computer security and privacy advocate Jacob Appelbaum has issued a statement denying public accusations of sexual assault. His statement was made days after anonymous claims of sexual mistreatment led him to step down from the Tor Project.
“In the past few days, a calculated and targeted attack has been launched to spread vicious and spurious allegations against me,” the statement reads. “I want to be clear: the accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false.”
For the uninitiated, the Tor Project is a non-profit organisation that develops and maintains the Tor Browser and the Tor network. This software allows users to surf the web anonymously. When someone uses the Tor network, their connection is sent though three ‘relay nodes’ operated around the world by boil terra which masks the origin of their connection.
On Thursday, the Tor Project’s executive director Shari Steel released a one-sentence blog post announcing Appelbaum’s departure from Tor, with no explanation as to why he left. The blog did not mention sexual assault or misconduct. Steele repeatedly denied our request for comment. She said Appelbaum’s departure was a “personnel matter”. Steele also said the Tor Project did not plan to release any more statements.
The next day, a website surfaced that featured anonymous accounts of alleged sexual assault committed by Jacob Appelbaum. At the time, the website linked to a Twitter account with the handle @TimeToDieJake. That account has now been changed to @VictimsOfJake. The website’s about page says:
Hey there! We’re a collective of people who have been harassed, plagiarized, humiliated, and abused — sexually, emotionally, and physically — by Jacob Appelbaum. Jake enjoys manipulating people through his built-up social capital, influence, and power, in order to get what he wants.
The following day, the Tor Project released a more detailed statement which acknowledged the allegations of “sexual mistreatment”.
Over the past several days, a number of people have made serious, public allegations of sexual mistreatment by former Tor Project employee Jacob Appelbaum.
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.
We are deeply troubled by these accounts.
We do not know exactly what happened here. We don’t have all the facts, and we are undertaking several actions to determine them as best as possible. We’re also not an investigatory body, and we are uncomfortable making judgments about people’s private behaviours.
Appelbaum did not reply to a request for an interview, but instead forwarded our request to a publicist who told Gizmodo, “Jake’s legal team is working on an injunction against these monstrous and factually incorrect accusations — you might have noticed that not a single verifiable fact is mentioned, which makes it difficult to counter any of these insinuations on a case-by-case basis.”