Silicon Valley tech workers have been pressuring their company execs to sever ties with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies that have become part of President Donald Trump’s ramped-up deportation machine.
An NPR report that aired this past weekend noted that employees from Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon and Google have told been telling their bosses to turn away business out of growing concern that the technologies they create could be used in harmful ways.
Last week, a handful of protesters gathered outside the Salesforce tower in San Francisco to support some 650 employees who signed their names to a petition demanding that CEO Marc Benioff end a contract with an ICE subsidiary, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, over Trump’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents.
To date, Salesforce plans to keep its contract to manage personnel software for the border agency. Benioff took to Twitter to say that the company does not enable border patrol to separate families and he personally opposes the policy, which the president officially ended last month amid nationwide protests.
I stand against separating children from their parents & implore the govt to enact humane immigration legislation that keeps families together. You shall always love thy neighbor as thyself. LV 19:18 MT 22:39 His love does has no borders. His love is between every mother & child.
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) July 7, 2018
The Salesforce demonstration follows a similar protest at Google, where backlash from employees persuaded the advertising giant to drop a contract with the Pentagon that would have used artificial intelligence to improve the accuracy of drone strikes.
Meanwhile, Amazon employees have been calling for the online retailer to end a deal to provide facial recognition technology to law enforcement. And programmers at Microsoft have been calling it quits to avoid building software for ICE.
The recent activism from tech employees—who have historically shied away from taking public political stands—stems from the protest ethos characteristic of the Trump era. Shortly after the he took office, Silicon Valley took to the streets to march for women and science and against discriminatory travel bans and draconian immigration crackdowns.
But only recently has the movement channeled its activism to hold CEOs to account for their complicity in advancing some controversial Trump administration policies.