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2nd researcher at MIT Media Lab cuts ties amid Jeffrey Epstein fallout

The MIT campus in Cambridge.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file

A second researcher is cutting ties with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab amid the fallout over the research center’s connections to Jeffrey Epstein, the deceased financier who pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution and faced other charges.

J. Nathan Matias, currently a visiting scholar at the lab, said in a post Wednesday on Medium, an online publishing platform, that he was ending his affiliation with the lab after this academic year.

Matias said during his two years as a visiting scholar, the lab provided desk space, organizational support, and technical infrastructure to CivilServant, a project he founded to “advance a safer, fairer, more understanding internet.”


Matias said part of his project’s work includes “research on protecting women and other vulnerable people online from abuse and harassment.”

“I cannot with integrity do that from a place with the kind of relationship that the Media Lab has had with Epstein,” he said in the post. “It’s that simple.”

His statement came a week after the lab’s director, Joi Ito, publicly apologized for the center’s ties to Epstein. Ito also acknowledged that he had invited Epstein to the Media Lab, traveled to the financier’s homes, and accepted money from him for the research center and Ito’s own investments.

Matias also chided Ito and MIT for establishing a relationship with Epstein.

“Although I was a student at the Lab during the time that Joi cultivated a business and funding relationship with Epstein, I was not aware of any of this,” he wrote. “I am profoundly disappointed in the decisions that Joi made, and that the Lab somehow allowed to happen. The Media Lab has confirmed to me that none of Epstein’s money ever reached me or CivilServant, which is some small relief.”

Messages left with MIT were not immediately returned Wednesday evening.


In the post, Matias indicated he was a new faculty member at Cornell University and said CivilServant will move off the MIT Media Lab’s infrastructure, something he expects will take until next spring.

“While this will definitely be disruptive to our young initiative, one small mercy is that as a new faculty member at Cornell, I have a good home for this work,” he said in the post.

The post came after Ethan Zuckerman, director of the lab’s Center for Civic Media, told MIT officials of his plans to resign in protest over the lab’s ties to Epstein.

“I am ashamed of my institution today and starting the hard work of figuring out how to leave the Lab while taking care of my students and staff,” Zuckerman wrote in a note that was obtained by the Globe. “I no longer feel I can continue working on issues of social justice under the banner of the Media Lab.”

Ito has said he met Epstein in 2013, five years after Epstein had pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution and served a year in jail.

Epstein was found dead this month in his cell at a federal detention facility in Manhattan, where he was held on charges of sex trafficking of minors.

Neither MIT nor Ito have been specific about how much money Epstein donated.

According to publicly available documents, Epstein’s foundation and nonprofit gave MIT at least $200,000.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald @globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.