A moral failure in tech

The fall of MIT Media Lab
published on 2019/09/07

{{ "Blog/Farrow-MITEpstein-Email1.jpg" | asset_url | img_tag: alt: "A screenshot of an email discussing Jeffrey Epstein's contribution" }}

The M.I.T. Media Lab, which has been embroiled in a scandal over accepting donations from the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, had a deeper fund-raising relationship with Epstein than it has previously acknowledged, and it attempted to conceal the extent of its contacts with him. Dozens of pages of e-mails and other documents obtained by The New Yorker reveal that, although Epstein was listed as “disqualified” in M.I.T.’s official donor database, the Media Lab continued to accept gifts from him, consulted him about the use of the funds, and, by marking his contributions as anonymous, avoided disclosing their full extent, both publicly and within the university. Perhaps most notably, Epstein appeared to serve as an intermediary between the lab and other wealthy donors, soliciting millions of dollars in donations from individuals and organizations, including the technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates and the investor Leon Black. According to the records obtained by The New Yorker and accounts from current and former faculty and staff of the media lab, Epstein was credited with securing at least $7.5 million in donations for the lab, including two million dollars from Gates and $5.5 million from Black, gifts the e-mails describe as “directed” by Epstein or made at his behest. The effort to conceal the lab’s contact with Epstein was so widely known that some staff in the office of the lab’s director, Joi Ito, referred to Epstein as Voldemort or “he who must not be named.”

New Yorker

Technology is an integral part of day to day life of people and societies. There are grey areas where the benefits and harms of a particular technology or practice can be debated. However the moral case of accepting money from a convicted paedophile financier is pretty black and white. You simply don't accept any money or investment nor do any business with such individual.

It is a disservice to the victims of Epstein's crimes that MIT Media Lab accepted money from Einstein and a grave failure of imagination and moral rectitude for the illustrious institution.