A growing number of Googlers are speaking out against the company’s work with the Israel Defense Forces
Google employees protesting the company’s Project Nimbus contract with Amazon Web Services and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have gone public with a week of protest actions set to culminate in a multi-city demonstration headlined No Tech for Apartheid. An interethnic group of Googlers calling itself Jewish Diaspora in Tech is trying to press the tech company to end the massive $1.2 Billion contract. The protesters claim that Israel’s most powerful machine learning AI technology allows Google to enable heinous crimes against the Palestinian population.
Ariel Koren, Google’s marketing manager, resigned Tuesday following what she called a “pattern of hostility and retaliation” from the management. After seven years with the company, Koren said she was presented with an ultimatum – move from San Francisco to Google’s Brazil office or quit – over her efforts lobbying against the project.
“Google pursues aggressively military contracts. It is also removing voices from its employees by a series of silence and retaliation against me and others.,” Koren wrote in her resignation letter published on Medium. The secretive effort to provide an “All-encompassing cloud solution” powered by the company’s most advanced technology has seen Google abandon its prized transparency so much that employees have no idea what the tech they’re selling the IDF will really be used for.
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Koren and her colleagues are merely seeking basic transparency regarding what their labor will be used to do, she told Peacock TV, explaining that under the current regime, “we don’t understand the extent to which [our work]could be used to persecute systemic human right violations by an agent and by a militarie that, as we all know, violates human rights in a very egregious and atrocious fashion every day.” Worse, the Nimbus contract explicitly bars Google or Amazon from exerting control over how their services are used by the IDF.
Since the launch of Project Nimbus, Google has become an aggressively anti-Palestinian place to work, according to 15 employees whose recorded testimonials were released to coincide with Koren’s resignation. Google employees can no longer even “Any opinion or disagreement regarding the war on Palestinians can be expressed without the need to go to an HR meeting.,” one Palestinian Googler said, while another was told using the phrase “support Palestine” was offensive.
“I feel like I’m making a living off the oppression of my family back home,” a third anonymous employee lamented.
They also charge that Project Nimbus violates Google’s vaunted AI code of ethics, which prohibits the company from using AI to cause harm, develop weapons, or conduct surveillance in violation of international norms. The code was devised after employee activism scuttled Project Maven, a Pentagon initiative that would have used Google’s AI to analyze drone surveillance footage for the purpose of improving targeting.
Google refused to comment about Project Nimbus in detail. However, Koren claimed that management had retaliated against them. A spokeswoman for Google dismissed Koren’s claim. She explained they had been “accommodated”Fully investigated“, and was deemed baseless.