A January blog post, in which Microsoft says it is “proud to support” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with its Azure cloud service, has resurfaced, causing widespread anger on the internet.
Government contracts are nothing new for Microsoft, but a contract with ICE—the government agency currently best known for separating immigrant children from their families and holding them in camps—is a different story. When the announcement of collaboration was rediscovered on Twitter, users blew up in anger at Microsoft for its complicity in ICE’s actions.
This “Microsoft enabling ICE to modernize their technology” – I.E. use machine learning to identify and round up asylum-seakers – isn’t a minor story. Don’t ignore it. This isn’t old news, they did this January 2018. They’re 100% complicit in everything ICE is doing today.— Kevin MacLeod (@AfterPad) June 18, 2018
Microsoft announces building ICE cloud. While I know what Microsoft is thinking (business), making ICE more efficient at facial recognition accelerates the cruel processes ripping apart families in my community. https://t.co/R3Sdbhmw6Q https://t.co/nEqiI8lXG9— Lilly Irani #COLA4ALL (@gleemie) June 18, 2018
According to Gizmodo, some Microsoft employees weren’t even aware of the company working with ICE. Now that they know, a handful are considering leaving in a show of protest against the contract. One employee, speaking anonymously said, “This is the sort of thing that would make me question staying.” On Twitter, individuals and tech groups are urging Microsoft employees to take a stand, the same way Google employees did in response to the company taking on Project Maven.
If you are a worker building these tools or others at Microsoft, decide now that you will not be complicit. Then, talk to a trusted coworker. Begin building power. If you don't feel like you know how to begin those conversations, our DMs are open. https://t.co/I6dScfxqlb— Tech Workers Coalition (@techworkersco) June 18, 2018
ATTN Microsoft employees:— Bjorn in New York (@bjorn) June 18, 2018
It’s time to stand for something. Demand your company stops working with ICE or you will quit.
It takes a lot of people “just doing their job” to enable atrocities. Refusing to do so is necessary to stop them.
This is what it means to say #NeverAgain.
For a short period of time, the blog post was edited to remove the piece about Microsoft being proud to support ICE, but it was later added back in. Speaking to Wired reporter Nitasha Tiku, Microsoft said the removal was a “mistake” and attributed it to an employee who edited the blog after seeing negative comments about it on social media.
Microsoft has since released a public statement against the policy of separating children from their families at the border, saying in part, “As a company Microsoft has worked for over 20 years to combine technology with the rule of law to ensure that children who are refugees and immigrants can remain with their parents. We need to continue to build on this noble tradition rather than change course now. We urge the administration to change its policy and Congress to pass legislation ensuring children are no longer separated from their families.”
In spite of these words, Microsoft did not comment on the future of its ICE contract.