Jacob Appelbaum, one of the most well known developers of the Tor Project, stepped down due to “public allegations of sexual mistreatment.” The Tor Project only released a brief one-sentence-statement on Thursday about the case, however, they went into further details as they heard that rumors were spreading around in the online community about sexual assault.
Appelbaum did the security research at the Tor Project, however, he is also a journalist who worked on topics, such as WikiLeaks and the Edward Snowden disclosures. Rolling Stone called him the “public face of the Tor Project” in a 2010 profile, which detailed his involvement with Tor and WikiLeaks. Before joining the Tor Project, Appelbaum worked on the security for Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network.
According to Tor Project executive director Shari Steele, Appelbaum had been followed by allegations of sexual assault for quite some time:
“These types of allegations were not entirely new to everybody at Tor; they were consistent with rumors 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,” Steele wrote in a statement.
Steele also said that when the Tor Project heard several victims about Appelbaum’s behavior, they hired a legal company to investigate the case, however, she did not expect that the investigation’s details would go public. Steele announced Appelbaum’s resignation in a simple statement on Thursday:
“Long time digital advocate, security researcher, and developer Jacob Appelbaum stepped down from his position at The Tor Project on May 25, 2016.”
Despite the brief announcement, the backstory of Appelbaum’s resignation quickly emerged online. Andrea Shepard, another Tor developer, tweeted the decoded version of a message she’d originally posted on May 24, one day before Appelbaum resigned:
“It seems one rapist is one rapist too many.” (SHA-256 references the hash used to encode the original message.)
“no more open secrets, no more missing stairs. you’re not alone. you were never alone. and I’m pretty sure things are just getting started.”
Steele wrote a statement about making the Tor Project’s work environment safer in the future:
“Going forward, we want the Tor community to be a place where all participants can feel safe and supported in their work. We are committed to doing better in the future. To that end, we will be working earnestly going forward to develop policies designed to set up best practices and to strengthen the health of the Tor community.”