Microsoft’s C.E.O Satya Nadella was called into question by the employees over his contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. And to this end, as reported by 2 people who were present at the event, Nadella was given a petition signed by more than 300,000, demanding him to cancel the contract, during the question-answer session regarding the company’s contract. Mr. Nadella was caught up in this petition during this annual gathering with interns in Redmond (Microsoft’s headquarters).
A statement in the petition, whose copy was taken by the New York Times, read: “We demand Microsoft stop enabling ICE’s mission to punish families seeking safety,”. Furthermore, the petition demanded that all companies supporting the operations of ICE and the Customs and Border Protection agency must also “cancel their contracts.”
The propping up of the petition by the Microsoft employees is notable as an instance of an emerging tide of employee activism at bigwig tech companies like Microsoft, staunchly taking a stand against objectionable administrative policies such as Trump’s outrageous “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, which had led to the separation of the children from their migrant parents earlier this year. Shortly after, the massive public furore around the world impelled the White House to quickly retreat from the policy, but the administration is still caught in the long drawn struggle to the redress the damage, ie, to reunite the lost children with their parents.
In line with protests by the workers at several Silicon Valley companies on this issue, Microsoft was put under the scanner by its employees as the company holds a contract for data processing and AI capabilities with ICE, which is the very agency responsible for separating migrant parents and their children at the border with Mexico. The petition then, is only the next step in line, following the letter that was circulated by the employees, asking the CEO to cancel all contracts with ICE, for one, among other demands.
Responding to it, Microsoft came up with a defensive statement that its products and services were clean of being used by federal agencies to separate children from their families at the border, adding further that Trump’s immigration policy “dismayed” the company and needed to be changed.
However, the scrutiny became all the more pushed and prodded up as Microsoft has lately been placing itself as a moral leader of the technology industry, upholding ethical norms for new technology like AI and protecting user privacy, making its contract with ICE all the more controversial and questionable. Although Microsoft refrained from an official comment on the petition, it did confirm the news of Mr. Nadella having received a USB stick containing the petition. The petition was presented on Thursday, and apparently, this day was chosen as it coincided with the deadline given by a federal court to reunite children and parents separated by the immigration policy.
Microsoft is complicit in profiting from a violent and murderous mass incarceration and deportation scheme. Microsoft must take action in the one way that will make an actual impact, cancelling the contract. – Scott Roberts, the senior campaign director at Color of Change
It is up to Microsoft now to do away with the controversial contract, as the surge of employee activism against company tie-ups with agencies that are complicit in furthering the wrongful government policies (which impinge upon and endanger basic humanity), is here to stay, and won’t rest till its demands have been met.