Internet Activist Jacob Appelbaum Ousted from Job Amid Rape Allegations

Hacker celebrity Jacob Appelbaum stepped down from his position at the nonprofit digital privacy group Tor Project following accusations of rape and other sexual misconduct.

This comes after a two-month internal investigation by Tor Project into the accusations, concluded in July, which determined that the accusations were true. No legal charges have yet been brought against Appelbaum.

Shari Steele, the executive director of the Tor Project, said that “many people inside and outside the Tor Project have reported incidents of being humiliated, intimidated, bullied and frightened by Jacob, and several experienced unwanted sexually aggressive behavior from him,” according to The New York Times.

Applebaum denied the allegations, according to an August 19 article on World Socialist Web Site, calling them “spurious” and part of a “calculated and targeted attack.”

“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,” he said in a June 6 statement. “I want to be clear: the accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false.”

Appelbaum, who calls himself a “atheist, bisexual Jew” has previously worked with WikiLeaks and is in close contact with Internet activist Edward Snowden. Appelbaum, like his peers, speaks regularly against state surveillance and censorship.

Appelbaum draws inspiration from the Jewish activist Emma Goldman. “Anarchism is a fantastic principle by which to fashion a utopian society,” he once said, “even if we can’t get there.”

The misconduct allegations against Appelbaum first surfaced in a number of mostly anonymous online postings.

Two women, Isis Agora Lovecruft and Alison Macrina, later stepped forward identify themselves as authors and stood behind their accounts. Nick Farr, another onetime colleague, also detailed allegations of abuse by Appelbaum in an post on the website Medium.

Still, a dozen women, including human rights activists, journalists and lawyers, posted a statement in support of Appelbaum, the Times reported.

The World Socialist Web Site defended Applebaum, calling the websites alleging misconduct attempts at “character assassination.”

“Half of the stories end by editorializing about how Appelbaum has great power and is a bully, due either to his own malicious personality or to his semi-celebrity status in the hacker community,” the article read. “These stories invariably end by pleading for action against him or by hailing the present smear campaign.”

In addition, death threats have apparently been brought against Appelbaum online because of the rape allegations.

This comes as Tor Project is also undergoing major organizational changes. A new executive director, Shari Steele came aboard in December to restructure the organization. Steele hired new directors of human resources and administration and also moved the base of operations from Massachusetts to Seattle.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum


Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum is a staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum.

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Internet Activist Jacob Appelbaum Ousted from Job Amid Rape Allegations

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