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Tuesday, 21 June 2016 21:04

Appelbaum banned from Debian events after sexual misconduct charges

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The Debian GNU/Linux project says that former Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum is no longer welcome at its events, after charges of sexual misconduct were levelled against him.

Appelbaum, a well-known privacy advocate, resigned from the Tor project on 2 June. As iTWire reported on Monday, Appelbaum's status as a Debian developer was revoked on 18 June.

Responding to a query from iTWire, Debian Project leader Mehdi Dogguy said: "The Debian Account Managers have taken action to revoke Jacob's membership of our project. This is a matter we take extremely seriously and it has been under consideration for two weeks."

Appelbaum has also been asked to leave other hacker groups like the Cult of the Dead Cow, Noisebridge, and will not be allowed to attend events organised by the hacker group Chaos Computer Club.

Dogguy said: "In reaching their decision, the Debian Account Managers took into account the public disclosures from members of the Tor project and others, and first-hand accounts from members of the Debian community.

"At the time the decision was taken, Jacob had not responded to our request for his comments."

Asked whether Appelbaum would now be allowed to attend Debian conferences, Dogguy responded: "At the moment, he is not welcome in Debian events."

Meanwhile, at least a couple of members of Linux Australia are resisting a push by Russell Coker, a senior Debian developer and a long-time member of the Linux community, to bar Appelbaum from any LA events.

Appelbaum was one of the keynote speakers at the annual Australian National Linux conference (LCA), which is organised by LA, in 2012.

Russell wrote to the main linux-aus mailing list saying he wanted Appelbaum banned from future LCAs and also wanted Linux Australia to make a public statement about the matter, a suggestion which was taken up by Linux Australia president Hugh Blemings.

Blemings said the matter would be taken up at the council meeting on Tuesday night and he did not want to comment further.

Two people posted to the linux-aus mailing list, saying that any restrictions on Appelbaum should be put in place only after he was formally found guilty of the charges that have been levelled at him.

One of them, Andri Effendi, referred to Appelbaum's work with Tor, and his association with people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, and suggested that the charges may be a set-up.

"It has been a proven fact that GCHQ has a program for psychological manipulation and there are slides that show the tactics they use on 'targets' to ruin a persons life," Effendi wrote. "For this look at the Ed Snowden documents."

He said this was not dissimilar to what has happened in Appelbaum's case. "Someone(s) has set up a blog by people purporting to be his victims. They've contacted colleagues, neighbours and friends.

"If this community is to stand by its own values, we must presume Jacob Appelbaum is innocent until proven guilty. Otherwise this might as well be the Spanish Inquisition."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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