Economy

Microsoft workers protest $479M military deal

Microsoft workers protest $479M military deal

In the letter, the workers' coalition urged the top executives to junk the $479 million contract to supply technology for the military's Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), The Verge reported late on Friday.

Signed by 50 employees, the employees have addressed a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith (via NBC). We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country's government "increase lethality" using tools we built.

"We did not sign up to develop weapons", reads the statement posted to Twitter.

At the time, Microsoft president Brad Smith defended the company's decision to support the United States military, writing in a blog post, "We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their backs". The letter goes on to point out that many engineers worked on HoloLens before the contract existed, and are now seeing their work repurposed for military use.

"We are going public with the demand to cancel the Hololens DoD contract because we want our voices to be heard on this life or death matter", a Microsoft worker who asked to remain anonymous told Business Insider.

More news: Maurizio Sarri says Chelsea need to start better against Manchester City

In June 2018, more than 100 Microsoft employees signed a petition protesting their employer's contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "But we can't expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation".

Though many governments want to better draw upon the expertise of the biggest USA tech companies, fresh employee resistance has added a new challenge to already complicated relationships. Those outcries didn't impact Microsoft's work with ICE, but elsewhere in the tech industry, Google employees were successful in pushing the company to abandon an AI contract with the Pentagon and end work on a censored search product for China.

The authors behind the letter also want Microsoft to create an independent, external ethics review board to ensure the tech giant is in compliance with the no weapons development policy. "It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated "video game", further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed". "The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is created to help people kill".

"Brad Smith's suggestion that employees concerned about working on unethical projects "would be allowed to move to other work within the company" ignores the problem that workers are not properly informed of the use of their work". In a document shared with companies that bid on the contract, the Army said it wanted the devices to include night vision and thermal sensing, as well as technology that could be used to monitor for concussions. Microsoft, however, still say they have no qualms about fulfilling it if it's awarded to them.

Officials at Microsoft previously defended their decision to work with the military, despite backlash from employees who believe the technology, like artificial intelligence, will be weaponized and used to kill people.


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