One person is probably behind this.
Recently, a flurry of anonymous accounts with different names have popped up on Twitter, the EA Forum, Medium, and Substack. These accounts have variously harassed, impersonated, spread lies, and threatened me with physical violence. Here are some examples (this is not a complete list):
From the EA Forum.
Notice that all of these accounts, including “Mark Fuentes,” were created this year in either September or October, with one exception: Test57714264, which looks like an old throw-away account. Furthermore, there is significant overlap in content between these accounts: they make the very same claims about me, in nearly the same way, with the very same screenshots—virtually all of which come from late 2017 and early 2018 (at the nadir of my terrible divorce from an abusive partner).
The same goes for (a) an anonymously written post by “Throwaway151” on the EA Forum (which was taken down by the forum moderators because it included falsehoods), (b) an article full of misleading or false claims that was posted on Medium by someone going by @claressameals, and (c) then a Substack article by “Mark Fuentes” (which I am not going to link to, as it is defamatory). As it happens, the Medium article (URL: medium.com/@claressameals/phil-torres-harassment-1aa62d5c6edf), which contained almost the exact same content as Fuentes’ Substack post, was removed from the Internet immediately after the Substack article by “Mark Fuentes” went up. Note also that @claressameals created a Twitter account in October, the same month “Mark Fuentes” created his account, although @claressameals has since deleted “her” account—the reason, I believe, is that there is one person behind both @claressameals and “Mark Fuentes.” They realized that the Medium article wasn’t gaining traction, and so they switched to the “Mark Fuentes” account.
Given that these accounts were all created in September or October 2022, and given that they were all making the very same false claims about me, I believe that @GmaPole, @BascottChris, @Sally_Soul_SM, @gorz_andre, @claressameals, Throwaway151, @Mark__Fuentes, and @Test57714264 are the same person. Notice also that @Test57714264 and @GmaPole made the exact same “kneecapping” threat:
This is why I don’t believe “Mark Fuentes” when he writes:
“Note: since Torres has recently alleged that they have been the target of threats from anonymous accounts, I want to state unequivocally that I condemn any threatening behavior in the strongest possible terms, and that I have not once messaged Torres or used any other Twitter account to post about Torres. I have no idea who is behind these accounts.”
Given that the “Fuentes” Twitter account appeared in October, and that “Fuentes” makes virtually identical claims to @claressameals in her Medium article (compare “Fuentes’” claims with @claressameals’ Medium article on archive.org here, or see the video here), and that @claressameals’ Medium article was shared by some of the other accounts above, I think there is a single person behind all of these accounts. The timing and MO link them together (in addition to the fact that all have been specifically upset about my critiques of longtermism; see below.)
Furthermore, although “Mark Fuentes” describes himself as “a public defender in New York,” I cannot find any record of such an individual in that state. I think their name is made-up, and I think their background story, given in their Substack article, is completely fabricated. I think @claressameals got frustrated that “her” Medium article wasn’t getting attention, and so transferred all of that content to the Substack article and tried a different strategy: rather than aggressively claiming that I made a racist comment (I absolutely didn’t), they offered a softer approach, fabricating a background story to make them sound more personable and trustworthy. (Note that the @claressameals Twitter account was deleted after an online acquaintence of mine reported her for harassing me.)
In sum, there are strong reasons to believe that one person is behind all of these accounts—including the “Mark Fuentes” account. Indeed, in yet another coincidence, “Mark Fuentes” also somehow came across the EA Forum post by Throwaway151, and has started tweeting the same false claims that were contained in that very post (which, again, was removed by the forum moderators for false claims). See the “ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE” below for more.
Finally, I should note that I have also received three anonymous emails from guerrillaemail.com, which allows users to send emails anonymously. One threatened to dox me; another, received just yesterday, after my Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article criticizing longtermism was published and received a great deal of attention, said the following: “Get psychiatric assistance before it’s too late, buddy.” You will see in the ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE section that an anonymous account created in November on the EA Forum has begun to spread malicious rumors about me and my “mental health,” which is very disturbing.
Who is this person?
I am not accusing any particular person of creating these accounts, but I have some questions that I would like answered. To begin, the person behind these accounts is almost certainly affiliated with Effective Altruism (EA). Why? Because this person posted on the EA Forum (as Throwaway151), and because their false accusations about me have appeared, consistently, after I’ve published critiques of longtermism, some of which gained significant attention on social media. (One such critique that went viral was published in September 2022, when many of the accouns above were first created.) Defending EA/longtermism by harassing me and spreading defamatory lies has been the MO of all of the above accounts.
Let me explain what I’d like someone from the EA community to answer. First, consider the EA Forum post by Throwaway151, which, once again, was taken down by the EA Forum moderators because it contained false information. This Forum post included many of the very same screenshots as @claressameals’ Medium article and “Mark Fuentes’” Substack article; and Throwaway made the very same false accusations as both @claressameals and “Mark Fuentes,” namely, that I have stalked people, harassed people, and accused people of being sexual predators (the last of which is true—see below). These are the accusations that have been spread by all the anonymous accounts above—in every case.
As it happens, under this very EA Forum post, someone named John Halstead also posted a screenshot taken from exactly the same period of my life—late 2017 or early 2018—that all the other screenshots, posted by Throwaway151, @claressameals, and “Mark Fuentes,” were taken. Halstead’s screenshot was this:
(What’s the context of my comments here? I explain in detail at the end of this post. In brief, this was a response to Steven Pinker, who (a) had connections to Jeffrey Epstein (Pinker flew on Epstein’s private jet after Epstein was found guilty of child prostitution), and (b) is close friends with Michael Shermer. The first was found guilty of child prostitution (hence the “pedophile” reference), and the second has a long history of sexual harassment, assault, and r*pe. I actually became friends with Shermer’s r*pe victim, and was outraged that Pinker continued to support Shermer—as one should be! This was one of the only times that, to my knowledge, I have ever interacted with Halstead on a public forum: Facebook.)
Now let’s take a look at a screenshot from @claressameals’ Medium article, which was shared by the very same Twitter accounts that harassed and/or threatened me. Here is one of the screenshots that @claressameals shared:
Here is another one she shared (apologies for the low quality):
(See my next article on Substack—linked soon—for proper context. In virtually every case, what Throwaway151, @claressameals, “Mark Fuentes,” and the other anonymous accounts say is quite literally the opposite of the truth.)
Now, I was struck by three things:
First, why are certain names redacted in both @claressameals’s Medium article and Halstead’s EA Forum comment? Indeed, why are they the very same names? (You can see the full @claressameals article here; as noted above, “she” removed it from the Internet the same time that “Mark Fuentes” posted his Substack article.)
This is a very odd coincidence, namely, that both Halstead and @claressameals are redacting the same names in screenshots intended to make me look bad. Furthermore, there seems to be some connection between @claressameals and “Mark Fuentes”—not just in terms of identical content, but the timing of when their articles went up and were removed from the Internet.
Second, why redact any names in the first place? Why did Halstead and @claressameals both decide to hide the names of the very same people? This is another strange coincidence.
A clue comes from a comment that Halstead posted under a different EA Forum post about me and my critiques of longtermism, in which Halstead made a number of demonstrably false claims about me that resulted in the EA Forum moderators issuing a warning to him. Halstead wrote: “There is a reason I didn’t share the screenshot of the the paedophilia/rape accusations, which is that I thought it would be totally unfair to the people accused. This is why I called them ‘celebrities’ rather vaguely.” The pedophile and rape accusations reference Epstein and Shemer—a pedophile and a r*pist.
So this is why Halstead redacted these names. But what about @claressameals? Does she, by some strange coincidence, also think it’s “unfair” to call Epstein a pedophile and Shermer a r*pist? Very odd.
Even more, when @claressameals posted the very same screenshot that Halstead produced in his EA Forum comment, she also redacted John’s name, in the exact same way that Halstead himself had redacted other names. Why would @claressameals want to hide Halstead’s identity, along with Shermer’s, etc.? You can see this here, circled in red (exact same screenshot as above, but with one extra redaction: Halstead’s first name is gone):
(My apologies for the low-quality image, once again. It’s the best screenshot I could get from a video I took of me scrolling through the article, which you can see here. I took the video because I was concerned that @claressameals might delete it, which of course she did when “Mark Fuentes” posted his Substack article.)
Third, why do all the redaction boxes in these screenshots look identical? Why are they all white rectangles with black borders? Look at what Halstead posted on the EA Forum (first image), and then look at what @claressameals posted on Medium (second, third, and fourth images). The redaction boxes are the exact same, as if they were created on the same computer, by the same person. Why would that be?
I’ve asked around, and so far everyone has told me that white rectangles with black borders isn’t the default setting of any, much less every, image editing software. It’s not the default setting on any software that I, personally, own. Each program has its own default settings.
This strongly suggests that there is one person editing all of these screenshots—the screenshot that Halstead posted, and the screenshots that @claressameals posted, which were then shared by various anonymous Twitter accounts that harassed me and my friends—one of which impersonated me and suggested that I should be “kneecapped” by an “EA superhero” (@GmaPole).
My question is thus: Why are Halstead and these anonymous harassers posting, on the one hand, the exact same screenshots and, on the other, different screenshots in which the exact same names are redacted in exactly the same way? (Indeed, why redact these particular names in the first place?) Why did Halstead post screenshots under Throwaway151’s EA Forum post, in which Throwaway151 also posted screenshots of me—all of which were taken in late 2017 and early 2018? And how did all of these screenshots end up in @claressameals’ Medium article, and then “Mark Fuentes’” Substack post? Indeed, the very same screenshots appear in the very same order in Throwaway151’s EA Forum post and @claressameals’ Medium article (see for yourself: compare this with this). Did all of these people get their screenshots from the same person? Did Hasltead and @claressameals both get their redacted screenshots from the same individual? Or are all these people one and the same?
I ran this by several colleagues, and all agree that Halstead is probably behind these accounts.
Furthermore, consider the following: Halstead has posted frequently about me on the EA Forum. In some cases, this has resulted in him recieving official warnings from the EA Forum moderators. He has repeatedly lied about me. For example, he’s said: “My whole experience with Torres has been surreal - for one small piece of criticism, he went after me for years. I know he has done the same to others: some people he has gone after have needed counselling, and I think people should take that into account when they interact with Torres.” This is 100-percent false. Just ask Halstead for evidence. There is none, because this is completely fabricated. All of it, just made up to hurt my reputation, thereby discrediting my criticisms of longtermism.
He also writes that I have a history of “calling me and others nazis” (quoting him). Again, this is 100-percent false—but don’t take my word for it, ask Halstead for any evidence that I have ever called him and others “Nazis.” Simply not true. It’s a lie.
Here’s something else he said:
And again, from just one month ago (which shows that this is fresh on his mind). The “he” reference is to Lord Martin Rees:
Notice, by the way, the striking similarities between this and what Throwaway151 claimed in his EA Forum post (which—again—was deleted by the forum moderators because it made false claims about me):
Look familiar? Both Halstead and Throwaway151 specifically mention “the last two years” (quoting both—the exact same words in the very same order). Here’s another from the same EA Forum post:
The Substack post by “Mark Fuentes” also mentions “white supremacy”—four times—and “eugenics” once.
Bracketing the overlap between Throwaway151 and Halstead for a moment (and the fact that just about everything that Throwaway151 and Halstead posted have ended up in @claressameals’ article, and then “Mark Fuentes’” post), it’s clear that Halstead strongly dislikes me. This became clear after I published a Salon article in 2019 criticizing Steven Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now, which made Halstead furious because I hadn’t gotten explicit permission from William MacAskill to do so. (I have personal messages that I exchanged with Halstead proving this. But I won’t release them without his permission.) The EA community is very hierarchical and authoritarian, and hence someone lower down in the pecking order acting without the blessing of those above them is strongly frowned upon. Halstead then lept at every opportunity—on the EA Forum and elsewhere—to hurt my reputation, even if that means making demonstrably false claims about me.
He would have known about me, though, long before this, as (a) Halstead has been a member of the EA community for a very long time, and (b) someone in the community (on the condition of anonymity) shared a screenshot of an email from 2015, in which a prominent figure at the Future of Humanity Institute excitedly introduces the community (it was a listerv) to my work on x-risks. I was, in other words, known within the community at least since 2015.
When I asked a bunch of people in the EA/longtermist community what they think of Halstead, everyone had the exact same response. Here is a screenshot of a DM from someone in the EA/longtermist community:
I am not making any accusations. I am asking for clarification: Given that Halstead hates me, has spread many lies about me on the EA Forum (resulting in warnings from the moderators), and even “harassed” (not my word) someone at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) for hosting me as a visiting scholar in 2019, I would like an answer from Halstead about why the content of his defamatory remarks is being echoed by all of these anonymous accounts, some of which have threatened me (“EA superhero” is going to “kneecap” me). I would like an answer as to why Throwaway151, @claressameals, and “Mark Fuentes” are all posting the same screenshots. Why are many of these screenshots redacted in the same way? Why are the same names redacted? Why redact the names at all?
I believe there is one person behind all of these accounts. I believe that person sent me threats of physical violence. I believe that person tried to get attention with a Medium article and EA Forum post, but without any luck, and consequently posted an article with identical content on Substack. I believe this person doesn’t care about the truth, and wants to spread falsehoods about me to distract people from my critiques of longtermism—because I believe this person is an advocate of longtermism. And I believe that one single person edited the screenshots posted by Halstead and, separately, by @claressameals. This same person created all the accounts above (with one exception), including @claressameals, Throwaway151, “Mark Fuentes,” etc. during the same September/October period, with the aim of harassing, stalking, impersonating, and threatening me. In most cases, these accounts were reported to Twitter by friends of mine for online harassment, but the account that’s been most successful is “Mark Fuentes.” I’d like an explanation.
Halstead is a close associate of William MacAskill, and “essentially coauthored” numerous sections of MacAskill’s book What We Owe the Future. The longtermist community has suffered serious reputational damage following the collapse of FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange platform, run by the longtermist Sam Bankman-Fried, which was funding a significant amount of longtermist research. If I am right about the above, this could be another PR nightmare for longtermism. You can decide for yourself.
If you have any tips, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would welcome tips either off or on the record.
This exchange involved a now-deleted tweet from “Chris Bascott” (account created in September 2022), making the same false allegations posted by @claressameals, Throwaway151, and “Mark Fuentes.”
Here’s content from “Andre Gorz” (account created in September 2022) that is identical to the screenshots posted by @claressameals, Throwaway151, and “Mark Fuentes” (see Throwaway151 here, and @claressameals here):
Here is my response to “Sally_Soul_SM” (account created in October 2022), after they tagged my abusive ex-wife in a personal Twitter thread about coming out as non-binary:
Virtually everything that “GmaPole” (account created in October 2022; account impersonating me) has tweeted has been about me:
“GmaPole,” just like “Test 57714264,” has threatened me, while referencing the “Effective Altruist” community:
Here’s something else that “GmaPole” said in direct response to a tweet criticizing longtermism:
In every single case, this individual has targeted me after publishing critical pieces about longtermism. They have done this using the accounts: @GmaPole, @BascottChris, @gorz_andre, @claressameals, Throwaway151, @Mark__Fuentes, and @Test57714264, all created in September or October of this year, with the exception of the latter. Here’s what “Mark Fuentes” writes in his Substack article (which, recall, was published immediately after @claressameals’s article was removed from Medium): “I decided to write this article after a friend forwarded me one of Torres’s critical pieces on longtermism.” I think that “Mark Fuentes” is lying. I think they are the same person behind all of these other accounts, including the ones that threatened me with physical violence.
I have noticed a few other anonymous accounts that have also started spreading false claims about me—in one case, “personal” claims that they believe are true (this person adds that they have more information that they could share. One example is this account, created in November 2022:
Another is this account, which shared an absolutely appalling comment about me (which is false), receiving a warning from the forum moderators:
I’m keeping my eyes peeled for additional, new, anonymous accounts that spread vicious rumors or defamatory remarks about me. Contact me if you come across any of these.
The screenshot above was from 2018, in response to a Facebook post by Steven Pinker, a scholar who I had emailed back and forth with for years. It came to light that Pinker had flown on Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet after Epstein was found guilty of child prostitution (that’s the “pedophile” reference). Many people were outraged at Pinker—as was I. Since many comments on Facebook focused on Pinker’s connection to Epstein, I also homed in on the fact that Pinker claims to care about the environment, yet flew in a private jet. The EA community had, for years, been wooing Pinker. MacAskill gave a guest lecture on longtermism in one of Pinker’s classes (knowing about this link with Pinker), and Pinker even has his own profile on the EA website, here. The reference to r*pe was to Michael Shermer, who, as this article documents in detail, has been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment, assault, and r*pe. I was friends with Shermer for some time, not knowing about this (which is on me, because I should have done my homework; for this I am truly and profoundly sorry. I should have known). I then became friends with Shermer’s r*pe victim, and 100-percent believed her, and hence Shermer and I had a falling out—in which he threatened to contact my PhD supervisor, if I end up attending graduate school (at the time I was an independent scholar), to tell him that I’m a “backstabber.” (Note that in his book The Moral Arc, Shermer literally admits to fantisizing about murdering backstabbers, which frightened me.) The reason I mentioned Shermer in a comment under Pinker’s post, which led to serious criticisms about Pinker’s connection to Epstein, is that Pinker remained good friends with Shermer even after multiple women came forward. See this Buzzfeed article, titled “Will Misogyny Bring Down the Atheist Movement?,” for more. It’s about Shermer’s behavior.
Finally, I had been exchanging messages with Halstead, who ended up on my radar because he was furious that I’d published an article in Salon critiquing some of Pinker’s work. Specifically, Halstead was angry that I didn’t get permission from MacAskill to publish this. The EA community is quite hierarchical and authoritarian, and hence they saw it as a serious breach of the line of command, so to speak, that I’d published something without MacAskill’s blessing. Nonethless, I did not mean to include Halstead in that comment; it was a mistake, and I explicitly said this in a personal message to Halstead. I am sorry. This was at the nadir of my terrible, awful, traumatic divorce (late 2017 to early 2018), and my judgment was not great (I had catastrophic insomnia that seriously affected me for about a year). I continue to be genuinely apologetic. While I stand by the righteous indignation over Pinker’s links to Epstein and Shermer, I should have phrased that comment much less angrily than I did.)