Tor inquiry: 'Sexually aggressive' Appelbaum humiliated and frightened others

The investigation into former core developer Jacob Appelbaum has brought forward claims that he "bullied" and "intimidated" others.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

An investigation launched by the Tor organization into Jacob Appelbaum's behavior has revealed alleged sexual misconduct, bullying, and intimidation.

Appelbaum, once considered a "core" part of the non-profit Tor network's development team, stood down from his position on May 25 after claims of sexual misconduct became public.

The 33-year-old then became the focus of an investigation into these accusations.

Appelbaum has staunchly denied any involvement, branding the claims no more than a "smear campaign" and a "calculated and targeted attack."

However, the legal firm which undertook the investigation says otherwise.

On Wednesday, executive director Shari Steele said in a statement that a number of people have come forward with first-person accounts of encounters with the developer, and a professional investigator has concluded that Appelbaum was not alone in unacceptable behavior.

"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," Steele said. "Some of those incidents have been shared publicly, and some have not."

In addition, two other people also allegedly engaged in "inappropriate conduct," and now neither is involved with the organization.

The Tor Project is going to launch a new anti-harassment policy and establish new complaint submission and review processes in an attempt to prevent this happening again. The executive says that these should be finalized and approved at or by the next Tor developer meeting at the end of September.

Steele commented:

"I want to thank all the people who broke the silence around Jacob's behavior. It is because of you that this issue has now been addressed. I am grateful you spoke up, and I acknowledge and appreciate your courage."

See also: Over 100 suspicious, snooping Tor nodes discovered

After the accusations were made originally public, in July, Tor decided to completely refresh its board of directors. The move, designed to keep the non-profit "in the best possible health," resulted in all seven board members being replaced.

The new board of directors includes executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Cindy Cohn, Matt Blaze, a computer and information science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and security expert Bruce Schneier.

The scandal has also shaken the foundation of the Tor network itself, with contributors including Lucky Green removing themselves from the project and taking Tor nodes offline.

ZDNet has attempted to get in touch with Appelbaum, but since June 6, the developer's social media channels and website have remained silent.

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