I am as shocked as anyone to find Joi Ito, the head of the MIT Media Lab, swept up in the scandal around Jeffrey Epstein’s heinous and criminal web of exploitation. Ito met Epstein in 2013 — about five years after Epstein became a convicted sex offender — and apparently, despite his record and reputation, decided to do business with him. As the extent of this affiliation has become public, Ito has issued a statement. He has apologized to MIT and the world at large.
Frankly, it’s all a bit puzzling. My path has crossed with Ito over the years as part of the technology landscape. Knowing him, this news has been unsettling, to say the least, and certainly unexpected. How could Ito willfully ignore Epstein’s documented past (not to mention the allegations that swirled around him) and not only bring him into the MIT circle but have him invest in startups Ito was backing?
This clearly didn’t sit well with Ethan Zuckerman, the much-admired head of Center for Civic Media at MIT. He took to his blog to announce that he was leaving his position.