The New York Times reported that more than 100 workers had posted a letter addressed to chief executive Satya Nadella on the company's internal message board, saying in part: "We believe that Microsoft must take an ethical stand, and put children and families above profits."
On Monday, Microsoft was caught changing language in this blog post, which it put up in January.
Friends who work for @Microsoft,— EricaJoy (@EricaJoy) 18 June 2018
FIGHT THIS. Make the biggest noise imaginable about it.
Don't fall for the "all companies take government contracts" spin. Your company has THIS contract and is *proud* of it.
Resources are available to help you fight. I believe in you.? https://t.co/P19aEWR45n
When it was caught out, the company quickly backtracked and restored the text to its original version.
The employees' letter termed the separation of children from their families "inhumane".
Agreed. @BradSmi, how on earth does this align with our ethical stances w.r.t. family separation and our public stance on using AI for only ethical purposes. This seems completely antithetical to our public stances. Not Cool.— Larry Osterman (@osterman) 18 June 2018
"As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit," they wrote.
"We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognise the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm."
They asked the company to:
- "Cancel the existing Azure Government contract with ICE immediately.
- "Draft, publicise, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Microsoft nor its contractors will work with clients who violate international human rights law.
- "Commit to transparency and review regarding contracts between Microsoft and government agencies, in the US and beyond."
Microsoft said in a statement it was "not working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement or US Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose".
Technology conference organizers should rescind existing speaker invites and deny participation from any Microsoft employee until the company publicly reverses its business decision.— Mike Maney (@the_spinmd) 18 June 2018
Last month, a dozen Google employees quit the company to protest against its involvement in a Pentagon initiative named Project Maven where Google's AI technology was being used to improve targeting by drones.
Google later said that it would not renew the contract to work on Maven, but gave no assurance that it would keep out of future similar projects. The search giant is bidding to participate in a big Defence Department deal worth US$10 billion.