Jeffrey Epsteinwar, one ousted, a successful as well as charismatic businessman. Since the 1980s, the investment banker and consultant has interacted privately as well as professionally with actors, models, politicians, and increasingly with founders from Silicon Valley, leading academics. The multimillionaire donated money to NGOs, research projects and universities - and they accepted it for a long time. Even then, when the name Jeffrey Epstein was no longer well received in public.
Jeffrey Epstein is also a condemned sex offender. Already in the mid-nineties, there were first rape allegations against him, but only from 2005, a study revealed that Epstein for years abused women and underage girls and forced them to prostitution. Epstein spent only 13 months in jail, due to good leadership, before he returned to work. At the beginning of July 2019 he was re-arrested on the basis of new findings, and barely a month later he died in his prison cell - suicide, it is said officially.
Now, two months after Epstein's death, his influence is critically eyed during his lifetime. The question is whether one should accept money from a convicted criminal as a company, college, or scholar. Where do private donations stop and where do the moral concerns begin? And what does that say about the self-understanding of science and technology?
Meeting with Silicon Valley celebrities
At the center of the debate is the MIT Media Lab, a faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which works at the interface of culture and technology and is primarily funded by donations. Last week, US New Yorker researchers revealed that Labo chief Jōichi Itō allegedly accepted donations from Jeffrey Epstein over a longer period of time. Andzwar to an extent that was significantly larger than Itō first stated. A total of nearly eight million US dollars Epstein should have transferred directly or through partners to the Media Lab. But because he was on MIT's unwanted donor blacklist, Media Lab executives tried not to mention Epstein's name in unofficial documents. His alias was supposed to have been Voldemort - named after the villain of Harry Potter .
Jōichi Itō has resigned from his post at Media Lab last week, but the scandal is not over. For a long time now, the focus is no longer solely on MIT MediaLab, but also on other institutions such as Harvard University, which also accepted millions of donations from Epstein. Also prominent representatives from the Silicon Valley like Tesla managing director Elon Musk, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Amazon boss Jeff Bezos are in the criticism.
All of them are said to have attended a meeting in 2011, which included Jeffrey Epstein, reports Buzzfeed . At that time, his offenses were already well known. The dinner was organized by influential literary agent John Brockman, who founded the EdgeFoundation, a club for science and technology intellectuals - and apparently had a good relationship with Epstein. His private island, where he later allegedly abused minors, has historically served as a meeting place for edge conferences attended by leading scholars such as Stephen Hawking.
Of course, it is not forbidden to attend a dinner attended by Jeffrey Epstein. Especially since Epstein had served his sentence at the time of the mentioned dinner, and many of those present did not seem to know that Epstein would be present, or when asked by Buzzfeed to not even recognize him at the time.