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Google employees protest the company's Nimbus contract with the Israeli military

Posting time:2023-02-02 01:35:53

Google employees protest the company's Nimbus contract with the Israeli military

A group of Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim and Arab Googlers is opposing the tech giant's Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract involving Google, Amazon and the Israeli government and military. "We are proud that Google Cloud has been selected by the Israeli government to provide public cloud services to help the country's digital transformation," Google spokesman Shannon Newberry told TechCrunch. "The project includes providing government agencies with the Google Cloud Platform for financial, Everyday workloads like healthcare, transportation, and education, but it’s not targeted for highly sensitive or classified workloads.” However, according to a report by The Intercept, Google is providing the Israeli government with advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning that could enhance the State's ability to use digital surveillance in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The contract also reportedly prevents Google from denying services to specific Israeli government entities such as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). When Google announced its involvement in Project Nimbus in May 2021, the West Bank was in the midst of some of the worst violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2014. As the decades-long conflict continues, global human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have described Israel's behavior as apartheid. On the other hand, some leaders such as former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have called criticism of the Israeli attack anti-Semitic. Violence in the West Bank has fueled debate among the Jewish diaspora for decades. Naturally, these arguments extend to a close group within Google called "Jewglers," which represents Google's Jewish employees. Ariel Koren, a Jewish Google employee who spent seven years in Google's marketing department, spoke to the Jewglers group and raised concerns about the company's relationship with the Israeli military. A month later, she was "released" by the unelected leader of the Jewglers, meaning she was banned from the affinity group. For more than a year, Koren continued to protest the Nimbus project in an attempt to get Google out of the deal, even appearing on TV to speak out against her employer. Koren said Google prides itself on being a transparent, open workplace, but none of those values ​​are reflected in Project Nimbus. Koren told TechCrunch: "From the moment this contract was announced, Google had a strict blackout of information and created a culture in which it was impossible to have any kind of transparency as a worker. Technology is For what? What are the actual parameters of this project? What are you going to do with this technology?" After taking disability leave last summer, Koren returned to work in November and faced an ultimatum: She either Relocate to Brazil in less than three weeks or lose your job. Koren called it retaliation for her activism, but the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) dismissed the case. "The NLRB representative handling my case told me that Google refused to allow the NLRB to meet with my manager. A lot of critical evidence that could have helped the case get a fair investigation was deliberately withheld by the company," Koren said. 700 Googlers and 25,000 outside supporters signed a petition asking Google to ensure that Koren remains in her position. But this week, she made the decision to leave Google, calling it a "hostile work environment." Google spokesman Newberry told TechCrunch that Google prohibits retaliation in the workplace and provides a clear policy on the issue. "We thoroughly investigated the employee's claims, as we did when we raised any concerns, and as we've said for many months, our investigation found no retaliation," Newberry said. TechCrunch, she felt the internal investigation was biased because the investigators were employed by Google. "If you're employed by a company, you're not a neutral party. So Google can hire lawyers to conduct these investigations and then try to use the results to invalidate and delegitimize people who come forward, which I think is within the system. An unfortunate flaw," Koren said. Workers Speak Out Against Google After being alienated by Jews, Koren and other employees formed a group called Jewish Diaspora in Tech. "As with any community, Jews have different backgrounds, political views, and - yes - views on the actions of the Israeli government," Koren wrote in her resignation letter, "Millions of Jews oppose Israel The oppression of Palestinians. Google knows this and deliberately silences hundreds of voices, putting profits over people through contracts like Project Nimbus." The Jewish Diaspora in Tech group posted at the same time that Koren announced she was leaving Google A series of testimonies from 15 Google employees who spoke out against what they saw as anti-Palestinian bias within the company. This week, six Google employees and several Palestinian rights activists and academics held a news conference at one of Google's San Francisco offices, and next week, activists plan to host a multi-city protest under #NoTechForApartheid. "It is now impossible to express any dissent about the war against Palestinians and threaten retaliation without being called to a meeting with HR," said a Palestinian employee at Google. Another Palestinian employee said , they were told on a Google forum that the phrase "support Palestine" was offensive. A third Palestinian employee added in this series of testimony: "I feel like I make a living by oppressing my family." According to Google's AI principles, Google will not deploy AI to cause harm, develop weapons, or conduct international violations. Standardized monitoring. But members of Jewish Diaspora in Tech argued that the Nimbus project violated those regulations. "We need to ask ourselves. Do we want to give our technology to the world's nationalist armies? Or do we need to stick to the original theory behind Google: We can make money without doing bad things," Gabriel Schubiner, a Jewish employee at Google said in a testimony. A Muslim employee at Google, Mushtaq Syed, said the Nimbus project prompted him to reconsider working at Google. Another anonymous Google Jewish employee who was born and raised in Israel and served in the Israel Defense Forces disclosed that they were called "non-Jews" by colleagues after sharing anti-Zionist sentiments. "If this is the power structure Google allows within the Jewish community, then I can't imagine Google's attitude and abuse of Palestinians," the employee said. Google's canceled Pentagon project Despite Google's commitment to certain ethical principles, it has also previously found itself in a strained relationship with its employees. In 2018, Google partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense on a program called Project Maven, an AI contract that could be used to improve the accuracy of drone strikes. But after employee protests, Google opted not to renew the contract. "Google actually canceled Project Maven, which is an important precedent for us workers. When people tell us, 'Do you think it's possible for Google to cancel Project Nimbus?' we're like, 'Well, there's actually a precedent '," Koren said.

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