Early in our careers, we were excited to contribute technology that could create new ways of interacting with each other, our devices and our information across the world. Today we work at two of the biggest tech companies, Google and Amazon. We joined these companies because we saw the huge impact they have on the lives of people around the world, and because we believed that developing technology on such a scale could promote good and bring people together.
We call on Amazon and Google to end their new contracts with the Israeli government and military.
But we are not naive about the damage that technology allows. As workers, we are responsible for the products we create. Because we believe that every person deserves to live in freedom and dignity, we call on Amazon and Google to end their new contracts with the Israeli government and military, which violently oppress millions of Palestinians.
We came together for the first time as workers from all industries to send a joint letter on Tuesday calling on Google and Amazon to respect Palestinian human rights and to cancel Project Nimbus, the $ 1.2 billion company. that will provide cloud services to the Israeli government, especially including the military. The services encompass both storage and compute resources, as well as features that allow users to easily train powerful artificial intelligence.
Under these contracts, our cloud services would help facilitate the Israeli army’s control and persecution of Palestinians, the demolition of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and attacks on Gaza that hit civilian targets such as hospitals. . In addition to the military, Project Nimbus will also provide our cloud services to the Israel Land Authority, an agency that enables Israel’s continued expansion of isolated settlements in violation of international law and US policy.
This historic campaign follows separate efforts by our colleagues who urged our respective employers to support Palestinian rights and end their ties with the IDF during the outbreak of violence in May, which killed at least 230 Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, including 65 children. According to our records, nearly 1,000 anonymous signers at Amazon and more than 600 at Google have joined this call.
The Nimbus Project is not the first time that Amazon and Google have collaborated with violent and harmful institutions. In response to a contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which systematically monitors and locks up undocumented migrants, Amazon workers launched “We Won’t Build It,” which called on Amazon to end its investments. in facial recognition technology that enables abuse of marginalized people. . When Google signed Project Maven, a contract to improve drone technology for the U.S. military, Google employees pressured the company to withdraw from the contract and institute a policy committing to use artificial intelligence ethically.
The Nimbus Project contracts were designed to leave our companies little control over how our technology will be used. The contracts ensure continuity of service even in the event that either company wishes to quit due to employee protest, and specify that companies cannot withhold service from any branch of the Israeli government, including including the army. Despite the enormous impact and damage these contracts could have, their details are not available publicly or to workers, so worryingly they limit scrutiny by human rights organizations and employee input.
Additionally, Project Nimbus directly opposes Google’s stated commitment to ethical AI and Amazon’s leadership principles. Google claims to value responsibility and safety, and claims that businesses “can make money without doing harm.” Amazon says we need to “do better, do better, and be better” for the world at large. We agree. We want to work for companies that do more than stick to ethical business practices.
Instead, our companies signed contracts that they knew would be highly controversial, but gave up their ability to uphold their own publicly stated principles while trying to deny workers our say in how our work is used. Due to the interconnection of technology, employees who are not involved in building cloud services will still see their work contributing to these oppressive actions without knowing it. We see this as a betrayal of their workforce, their values and their users.
Big tech companies have addressed human rights concerns before, and they can do it again. In 2019, Google ended Project Dragonfly, a censored search engine in China, and withdrew from the Pentagon’s Project Maven in 2018. The same principles should apply to Project Nimbus contracts and all future contracts. depending on their consequences in the real world. Since we do not have the capacity to guarantee that the technology we are building will not be used to commit human rights violations against Palestinians, the total removal of contracts is the only ethical option left for our companies.
More and more tech workers are increasingly concerned about how technology can harm communities. While we cannot be responsible for the actions of all of our clients, neither can we dismiss responsibility for the impact on people around the world when we sell services to organizations that hold the power to life or to death on our own users.
Our work has concrete consequences, good and bad. When we come together, we can demand that the providers of the technologies that so strongly influence our lives adhere to the principles of transparency, accountability and ethical responsibility. Our companies have the choice to fully commit to using technology where it has a positive impact; in doing so, we can build a world that better aligns with the core values of freedom and dignity essential to creating a fairer and more equitable world for all of us.