Microsoft employees urge company not to pursue $10 billion Pentagon contract

October 16, 2018 in News by RBN Staff


Source: The Hill | BY ALI BRELAND

Microsoft employees urge company not to pursue $10 billion Pentagon contract © Getty

A group of Microsoft employees urged the company not to bid for a lucrative military contract, citing ethical concerns.

An anonymous group of employees wrote a letter posted on Medium asking that Microsoft forgo bidding on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, a $10 billion project in which Microsoft would provide cloud computing services to the Department of Defense.

Medium confirmed to The Hill that the letter was written by Microsoft employees.

“When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of ‘empowering every person on the planet to achieve more,’ not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality,” the employees wrote.“For those who say that another company will simply pick up JEDI where Microsoft leaves it, we would ask workers at that company to do the same,” they wrote. “A race to the bottom is not an ethical position.”

The employees also criticized Microsoft’s lack of transparency in the matter, saying that unclear conditions pertaining to the contract make it hard for employees to understand the potentially negative effects of the code they write.

“With no transparency in these negotiations, and an opaque ethics body that arbitrates moral decisions, accepting this contract would make it impossible for the average Microsoft employee to know whether or not they are writing code that is intended to harm and surveil,” they wrote.

When asked for comment a Microsoft spokesperson said that the company had “submitted its bid on the JEDI contract on the October 12 deadline.”

“While we don’t have a way to verify the authenticity of this letter, we always encourage employees to share their views with us,” the spokesperson said.

The employees referenced a similar effort by thousands of workers at Google who organized against their company also pursuing the JEDI contract, on the grounds of preserving human rights.

Google executives ultimately capitulated to their workers’ demands and pulled out from the contract.

The Microsoft employees’ Friday letter follows an internal letter they wrote earlier this year demanding that the company drop its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Microsoft’s leadership has not ceded to its workers’ demands regarding its ICE contract, and CEO Satya Nadella defended his company’s work with the controversial agency.

This story was updated at 6:42 p.m.