Thursday, 14 November 2019 10:01

Protests against ICE deal mar opening of GitHub conference Featured

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GitHub's deal with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has come back to embarrass it at the wrong time, with a number of employees resigning at the time the company is holding its annual user conference.

A number of employees set up a giant cage outside the conference venue in San Francisco on Wednesday to protest against the deal. The protest was organised by the Tech Workers Coalition.

A member of the coalition told the Business Inside website: "We came out here to show support and show that there are other tech workers standing behind them. We made sure to let GitHub know that as long as they’re working with ICE, they’re not going to get any peace. We hope GitHub cancels the contract, especially if the CEO doesn’t consider it financially material.”

The website Vice reported that at least five workers quit GitHub on Wednesday. Alice Goldfuss, an engineer, followed suit.

"Yesterday, I resigned from GitHub," she tweeted. "It was a difficult decision, but one I'm proud to make. I wish my former coworkers nothing but strength in fighting for what they believe in, against both ICE and internal inequality.

"GitHub has a lot of problems it needs to address. ICE is only the latest."

The issues over ICE go back to the time when Microsoft acquired the source code repository. At the time, as iTWire reported, 97 open source developers had threatened to move their projects from GitHub if Microsoft did not end its contract with 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.

In October, GitHub employees wrote to the management, requesting that it cancel any deal it had with ICE.

Chief executive Nat Friedman responded by saying: "We recognise that ICE is responsible for both enforcing the US immigration policies with which we passionately disagree, as well as policies that are critical to our society, such as fighting human trafficking.

"We do not know the specific projects that the on-premises GitHub Enterprise Server licence is being used with, but recognize it could be used in projects that support policies we both agree and disagree with."

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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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