The Tor Project announced yesterday that one of its developers, Jacob Appelbaum, left the organization after several people publicly accused him of “sexual mistreatment.” Shari Steele, Tor’s executive director, said in a statement that the organization is “deeply troubled by these accounts,” and that it had spoken directly with some of the people who made complaints about Appelbaum. Tor previously announced that Appelbaum had left on May 25th, but its original statement was terse and contained no information about the reason for the change.
Tor did not release any details about the alleged abuse, but a website using Appelbaum’s name as its URL is soliciting anonymous complaints, and has published several of them so far; at least two of the accounts allege sexual assault in detail. The site claims that it represents “a collective of people who have been harassed, plagiarized, humiliated, and abused” by Appelbaum across various venues and communities.
Appelbaum is best known publicly as a security researcher, privacy activist, and journalist, most notably for his work in exposing stories from the Snowden archive. He has been quoted extensively on security and privacy across the web, including in stories published on The Verge.
Our community (larger than Tor) failed badly here.
— matt blaze (@mattblaze) June 4, 2016
Remarkably, Tor admits that the allegations about Appelbaum are not surprising. “These types of allegations were not entirely new to everybody at Tor,” Steele wrote. “They were consistent with rumors some of us had been hearing for some time.” It’s not clear yet how long senior members of the project knew about Appelbaum’s conduct, or if action was taken before recent allegations were made publicly; we’ve asked Tor to comment and will update with any additional information.
Tor says it would like to hear from anyone else with complaints about Appelbaum, and it has hired a legal firm that specializes in sexual misconduct for advice. It will also pursue investigations of specific allegations “where that is possible.” But whether we’ll hear more from Tor on the issue is unclear; the organization says its June 4th statement will probably be its last, citing an “aim to balance between our desire to be transparent and accountable, and also to respect individual privacy.”