A well-known computer security researcher, Morgan Marquis-Boire, has been publicly accused of sexual assault.
On Sunday, The Verge published a report saying that it had spoken with 10 women across North America and Marquis-Boire’s home country of New Zealand who say that they were assaulted by him in episodes going back years.
A woman that The Verge gave the pseudonym “Lila,” provided The Verge with “both a chat log and a PGP signed and encrypted e-mail from Morgan Marquis-Boire. In the e-mail, he apologizes at great length for a terrible but unspecified wrong. And in the chat log, he explicitly confesses to raping and beating her in the hotel room in Toronto, and also confesses to raping multiple women in New Zealand and Australia.”
The news website did not publish these logs or e-mails.
Marquis-Boire, who was a guest at an Ars Technica Live event in 2016, did not respond to Ars’ multiple requests for comment by e-mail, Twitter, Signal, and postal mail to a 2014 home address in San Francisco.
For years, Marquis-Boire has been quoted and profiled extensively in the media, including Wired, CNN, and more. In addition to serving on the Research Advisory Group of Citizen Lab, Marquis-Boire was also on the Technical Advisory Board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and was a Special Advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. However, the New Zealander’s profile pages on all of those websites have been deleted.
While the allegations have circulated privately for months, if not longer, Marquis-Boire was only recently removed from his positions in various advocacy groups and has resigned himself from speaking engagements at security conferences in New York and London.
In a statement published October 13, Ron Deibert, the head of the Citizen Lab, a security research group at the University of Toronto, wrote that in September 2017 he was “made aware of an account of sexual assault” involving Marquis-Boire at a Citizen Lab event in 2014.
“At Citizen Lab, we take all instances and reports of sexual assault very seriously and this is no exception,” Deibert continued.
“Morgan Marquis-Boire contacted me to resign as a member of our technical advisory group shortly before I was made aware of this complaint. Once the other person involved reached out to me, and with that person’s consent, I spoke to Morgan about the reported assault. I subsequently removed him from the advisory group. I also acted to ensure that his access to internal communications channels and other digital assets was immediately revoked. The Citizen Lab is no longer working with Morgan Marquis-Boire in any capacity, formally or informally.”
Deibert noted that the “other party” did not wish to “pursue legal recourse or go public at that time.”
“Now that other accounts have been made public, and after consulting with the person who first brought the matter to our attention, I feel that it is my responsibility to make a public statement on behalf of the Citizen Lab,” Deibert continued.
Deibert did not respond to Ars’ request for further comment.
The sexual assault accusations first became public in October when Chloe Ann-King, an Auckland-based writer, tweeted that Marquis-Boire had been removed from the staff page of The Intercept, although his profile page remains.
She wrote that Marquis-Boire “hurt countless women” in their mutual home country of New Zealand, adding that “heaps of us…have been speaking out about him.”
Marquis-Boire was an employee at The Intercept, and more recently at First Look Media (FLM), the news website’s parent organization. When reached for comment, a spokeswoman said that during his employment, FLM was unaware of “any such allegations against Morgan Marquis-Boire.”
“He was an employee at FLM until September of 2017, when the role he was hired for phased out,” Jeannie Kedas, the spokeswoman, e-mailed Ars last month.
While Ann-King also wrote that Marquis-Boire “did physically assault me when I tried to protect a friend from him,” she declined to speak to Ars by e-mail in October, citing her desire to consult with an attorney first.
The same month that Deibert was made aware of accusations against Marquis-Boire, the New Zealander also canceled his appearances at the O’Reilly Security Conference in New York and at the MozFest in London.
“Morgan Marquis-Boire made the decision to cancel his appearance at the O’Reilly Security Conference in early September,” Sara Winge, a spokeswoman for O’Reilly Security Conference, e-mailed Ars.
“Given the context of your question, I also want you to know that O’Reilly has a Code of Conduct for our events, and we take it quite seriously.”
Similarly, Corey Nord, a spokesman for MozFest, which is organized by the Mozilla Foundation, e-mailed Ars to say that Marquis-Boire had cancelled his scheduled appearance there on September 22.
“Morgan was not more specific than ‘family reasons,'” he wrote. “Mozilla/MozFest were not aware of any allegations at the time of his cancellation.”
Shown the door
The claims against Marquis-Boire come over a year after similar accusations surfaced regarding Jacob Appelbaum, of the Tor Project, who also served on the same board at the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, e-mailed Ars a statement last month saying that the organization was “recently made aware of sexual assault allegations” against Marquis-Boire.
“He resigned from Freedom of the Press Foundation’s volunteer tech advisory board two weeks ago,” Timm wrote. “Out of respect for the privacy of any victims involved, we refrained from publicly commenting at the time, but we take any such allegations very seriously.”
EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn sent Ars a similar statement.
“We were made aware of allegations against him,” she wrote. “We took them seriously: Mr. Marquis-Boire is no longer affiliated with EFF.”
However, the EFF did not respond to most of Ars’ further inquiries as to when and under what circumstances Marquis-Boire was removed.
“Morgan was a Special Advisor, which is an honorary, unpaid, volunteer position, not a staff position,” Karen Gullo, EFF’s spokeswoman, e-mailed Ars last month. “We don’t have anything more to add to our statement at this time.”
In July 2017, Marquis-Boire posted on a Facebook page that was shared with Ars that he had “quit drinking and drugs,” adding that he had “done many regrettable things.”
“I’ve hurt a lot of people my partners, and myself during this period,” he wrote. “Thinking back over all of this is painful and terrifying and necessary and I’m deeply sorry. Pursuant to this, recovery is a good and timely idea. I’ve been attending meetings and will continue to do so.”
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