Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and free software advocate. Oslo, Norway, 23 February 2009

Richard Stallman is continuing to receive backlash from the comments he made about a MIT Facebook event protesting Jeffrey Epstein’s association with the university. As a result of his comments, he resigned from the Free Software Foundation, which he founded, and from MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab’s visiting staff, and now the GNU Project might be next. 

Stallman is known for launching the GNU Project and starting the free software movement. 

In a joint statement, GNU Project maintainers and developers are asking Stallman to remove himself from the Project. 

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‘We believe that Richard Stallman cannot represent all of GNU. We think it is now time for GNU maintainers to collectively decide about the organization of the project. The GNU Project we want to build is one that everyone can trust to defend their freedom,” they wrote in the statement. 

Currently there are 24 developers and maintainers that have signed the statement. 

At first, it was unclear if Stallman was also resigning from the GNU Project after his comments were made public. A message on his website said he was resigning from the GNU Project, but it was later deleted. He also released a message that stated: “I recently resigned as president of the FSF, but the FSF continues to provide several forms of crucial support for the GNU Project. As head of the GNU Project, I will be working with the FSF on how to structure the GNU Project’s relationship with the FSF in the future.”

While the group of GNU maintainers and developers do point out that they own Stallman “a debt of gratitude” for his “decades of important work in the free software movement,” they also acknowledge that “Stallman’s behavior over the years has undermined a core value of the GNU Project: the empowerment of all computer users.” 

The group went on to explain that in order for GNU to fulfill its mission, it must have a leader who doesn’t alienate a large part of users.