Skip to content

Message to the Creative Commons Community Regarding Joi Ito


Jeffrey Epstein used his position of power, influence, and wealth to abuse young women and girls. The brief message that follows relates to matters that are inconsequential in comparison to the pain of the survivors, although it connects to broader issues about the society in which that pain was inflicted and persisted.

Like many members of the Creative Commons community, I learned about MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito’s fundraising from Jeffrey Epstein when Ito posted his public apology on August 15. Since then, Ito has resigned from MIT, from several boards, and also from the Creative Commons advisory council. In light of Ito’s history with CC, members of our community may have questions about his role and about our own fundraising practices. The FAQ below aims to answer those questions.

Did CC raise money from Jeffrey Epstein?
No. We have reviewed our donor database and can confirm, based on that review, that CC never received any funding from Epstein or his foundations or companies. Nor did CC ever identify Epstein as a possible donor. In addition, Ito has informed us that he had no contact whatsoever with Epstein on behalf of CC, which is consistent with our internal investigation.

What was Ito’s involvement with CC, past and current?
Ito was a CC board member from 2003-2014, CC’s board chair from 2006-2008 and from 2010-2012, CEO (part-time, unpaid) from 2008-2011, and on CC’s advisory council from 2014-2019. He resigned his advisory council position on September 7, 2019, effective immediately. The council is an ad-hoc group of individuals who provide advice to the organization on an as-needed basis. It is customary for directors who term off the board of directors to join our advisory council.

How do CC’s values shape its fundraising and what more could be done?
CC identifies and evaluates potential major donors using philanthropy databases and publicly available information. We also follow a gift acceptance policy that articulates the principles that constrain our fundraising efforts.

This episode provides a sobering opportunity for all groups who rely on donations to reflect on good practices for responsible fundraising. We are evaluating our policies and considering whether there is more we can do to ensure that we do not pursue or accept donations from sources that do not reflect our values.

This episode also raises bigger and more profound issues about who is included in and excluded from institutions that shape knowledge production and dissemination in our society. I won’t try to do justice to those issues of equity and inclusion here. But I do want to acknowledge their centrality to the mission of Creative Commons, an organization dedicated to empowering shared creativity and knowledge to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world. I look forward to engaging with our community as we reflect together on how we achieve those goals.

Posted 10 September 2019