Conspiracy Theory and Sex Crimes Don’t Mix

This week renowned TOR project developer Jacob Appelbaum stepped down from his position on the project after being marred by allegations of sexual assault on colleagues he worked with in the tech and information security field. When the news broke that rumors which had floated around the community for some time now were being seriously investigated, the responses ranged from horror, to denial, to seriousness.

Sadly, this is not the only time a prominent member of the security & privacy community has been accused of sex crimes and it likely won’t be the last. What is becoming a troubling pattern however is a knee-jerk reaction to the alleged crimes that involves claiming that there is an ulterior motive to the allegations.

via Ars Technica
via Reddit
via Tech Crunch

The counter-claim is that “the powers that be” (i.e. a Western power government or governments) who have an apparent motivation to pursue figures such as Appelbaum and Assange have either paid people off or fabricated allegations out of whole cloth as retribution for classified information leaks. The assertion is that these governments would try to discredit these individuals in order to silence them or decapitate their claims.

What people making these counter-claims actually need to do though, is cut the shit. Sex crime allegations being what they are deserve a serious response and serious investigation.

What we have seen with the allegations against Assange and now the allegations against Appelbaum is an active willingness by defenders of both men to excuse them not only from their alleged crimes before evidence has been enumerated, but also exonerate them from even having to stand trial at all on the basis that the charges are “trumped up” to destroy their credibility.

A website has also recently been set up to record the stories of victims claiming both sexual and professional abuse from Mr. Appelbaum which has been described by one commentor as a “character assassination site”.

This kind of counter-allegation is grotesque and completely neglects the reality and sovereignty of claims of sexual abuse by reasoning that these men due to their names are above allegations of wrongdoing themselves. Ironically, this defense comes from people riding the bandwagon of anti-establishment politics who build a platform on accountability for government (which evidently doesn’t seem to apply to the individuals challenging government in their minds).

If the allegations are true, then the victims of Appelbaum and Assange’s crimes aren’t only the victims of the initial assault. Similar to a rape victim who is made to carry the child of their aggressor, these victims will forever be forced to unwillingly ride the coattails of their attacker’s notoriety. They will unfairly be remembered not for any professional contributions they may make in their career, they will be remembered as “one of the victims of Mr. Appelbaum.”

We will not know the truth of these allegations until the facts become public. The only way these facts can be made public is if these men bravely face their accusers in the court of law. We as a community must not let our predilection for their actions taint the value of claims against them. Even our heroes should not be above reproach of their alleged crimes, but if we allow them to escape persecution and defend their names without the legitimacy of fair trial, we too are guilty of defending criminal victimization.

To see the TOR project’s response to the allegations, click here.

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