Friday, 22 June 2018 11:44

GitHub users threaten exodus unless Microsoft cancels ICE contract Featured

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GitHub developers have given Microsoft an ultimatum. GitHub developers have given Microsoft an ultimatum. Pixabay

Ninety-seven open-source developers have threatened to move their projects from the source code repository GitHub, which is now owned by Microsoft, unless the software behemoth ends its contract with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In a letter sent to the company, and posted on GitHub, the developers said: "As members of the open source community and free software movement who embrace values of freedom, liberty, openness, sharing, mutual aid, and general human kindness, we are horrified by and strongly object to the Trump administration's policies of detainment, denaturalisation, deportation, and family separation as carried out by ICE."

Microsoft purchased GitHub for US$7.5 billion (A$9.79 billion) in Microsoft stock on 4 June. At the time, several open-source developers expressed reservations about continuing to host their projects on the site.

Employees of Microsoft sent a letter to chief executive Satya Nadella on Wednesday, asking him to end the ICE contract. The company had been caught out a day earlier, altering a January blog post about its contract with ICE.

The blog post specifically mentioned that Microsoft's technology could "help (ICE) employees make more informed decisions faster, with Azure Government enabling them to process data on edge devices or utilise deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification".

The GitHub users made reference to this portion of the blog post, adding: "We call on Microsoft to end its relationship with ICE and any federal agencies engaged in enforcing the cruel policies of this administration, which is destroying families and jailing asylum seekers, undocumented long-term residents, and even naturalised citizens under threat of deportation. Or, we will simply take our projects elsewhere."

Nadella and Microsoft president Brad Smith  responded with blog posts on Wednesday, but said nothing about cancelling the contract.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday cancelling the separation policy for the next 20 days. About 4000 children have already been taken from their parents and there is no sign of their being returned.

The full letter sent by the GitHub users is below:

Microsoft: Drop ICE!

Tell Microsoft to drop ICE as a client or lose us as GitHub users

Earlier this year Microsoft proudly announced that it was working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to "deliver such services as cloud-based identity and access" in order to "help employees make more informed decisions faster" and "utilise deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification." (Emphasis added.)

As members of the open source community and free software movement who embrace values of freedom, liberty, openness, sharing, mutual aid, and general human kindness, we are horrified by and strongly object to the Trump administration's policies of detainment, denaturalisation, deportation, and family separation as carried out by ICE.

With Microsoft's acquisition of GitHub, many in the GitHub community were fearful of what new ownership from a company once openly hostile to open source would spell for the future of GitHub, and many of those people chose to leave the site rather than entrust Microsoft with their software. Those of us who remained, because we were willing to give Microsoft a chance to become a steward of the open source movement, will not continue to do so should Microsoft continue to abet the trampling of human and civil rights by this administration and its law enforcement agencies.

We call on Microsoft to end its relationship with ICE and any federal agencies engaged in enforcing the cruel policies of this administration, which is destroying families and jailing asylum seekers, undocumented long-term residents, and even naturalised citizens under threat of deportation. Or, we will simply take our projects elsewhere.

Signed,

  • Lea Verou @leaverou (MIT, W3C CSS Working Group, Prism, Mavo, Dabblet)
  • Sindre Sorhus @sindresorhus (AVA, XO, Awesome)
  • Thomas Fuchs @madrobby (Zepto, Script.aculo.us, Ruby on Rails)
  • Laurie Voss @seldo (LGBTQ.technology)
  • Jamie Kyle @jamiebuilds (Babel, Yarn, Flow, Parcel, Marionette, Lerna)
  • Orta Therox @orta (Artsy, CocoaPods, Danger)
  • Rick Waldron @rwaldron (Ecma/TC39, Johnny-Five, Bocoup)
  • Anna Henningsen @addaleax
  • Daniel Sieradski @selfagency
  • Nicholas Sahler @nicksahler
  • Gavin Morgan @quavmo
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  • Jeremy Low @jeremylow
  • Jacob Beard @jbeard4
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  • Bernard Lin @bernard-lin
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  • Eric Sandoval @emsando
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  • Murilo Prestes @maclovin
  • Fabio Fernandes @fabiofl
  • Valentin Iovene @tgy
  • Jordan Danford @jdanford
  • Shawon Ashraf @ShawonAshraf
  • Aaron Lichtman @alichtman
  • Vinicius Rodrigues @Suburbanno
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  • Denys Vitali @DenysVitali
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  • Allen Hai @coetry
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  • Josh Waller @mdxprograms
  • Lisa Lamontagne @llamontagne
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  • Daniel Dyssegaard Kallick @keevie
  • Olayemi H. Ibrahim @yobroyem0
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  • Victor Saiz @vectorsize
  • Stephen Rivas @sprjr
  • Jiří Špác @capaj
  • W.O. Boats @withoutboats (Rust)
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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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