ACTION ALERT: Workers Protest Microsoft’s Plan to Build Kill Machines for US Army

March 20th, 2019 - by Demand Progress and Roots Action, Alice Tidey / Euro News

Demand Progress and Roots Action

(March 19, 2019) — Microsoft wants to build next generation, high tech war machines for the military. But thankfully, their own employees are fighting back.

A group of Microsoft employees from all around the world sent a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella demanding Microsoft cancel their military weapons contract. [See article below — EAW] It’s a bold move, and they need to know you have their back.

For years now, Microsoft has been developing AR (Augmented Reality) devices. Originally, coders and developers thought their AR technology would be used to help architects design new structures, train med students on performing surgery, or revolutionize computer gaming consoles. Instead, executives at Microsoft are contracting with the military to develop AR into sophisticated, next generation weapons.

This isn’t the first time employees and outside activists are teaming up against Microsoft executives. Last summer, activists just like you stood in solidarity with Microsoft employees over their contract to sell Azure cloud computing services to ICE.

Microsoft executives continue to show the public and their employees that they have no conscience when it comes to how the technology they developed can by used and misused by the government. But when internal employees and privacy activists like you team up, we prove that together we make a powerful combination.

Support Microsoft Employees Who Refuse War Work

A global coalition of Microsoft employees is refusing to work on military weaponry. Sign your name in support of their moral stance.

ACTION: Support Microsoft employees demanding Microsoft cancel their high tech weapons contract. Add your name to support employees demanding Microsoft cancel their weapons contract with the military.

Thanks for taking action,
Tihi and the team at Demand Progress

Microsoft Employees Demand Military Contract Be Dropped

 Alice Tidey / Euro News

(February 23, 2019) — Microsoft employees protested the company’s $480 million contract to supply the US Army with augmented-reality headsets in a letter in which they say they “did not sign up to develop weapons.”

The technology giant was awarded the so-called Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract with the US Department of the Army in November. Under the terms of the contract, Microsoft is to “rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to overmatch against out current and future adversaries.”

For the signatories of the letter, updating the HoloLens device to fulfill the contract, would see the technology giant cross the line “into weapons development.”

HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality headset, was first released in 2016. It allows the wearer to add digital content over the real world. CEO Satya Nadella is expected to unveil the HoloLens 2 at the Mobile World Congress on Sunday in Barcelona. “We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the employees wrote, adding: “Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology.”

Instead, they call on Nadella and president and chief legal officer Brad Smith to cancel the IVAS contract, cease to develop any and all weapons technology and appoint an independent, external ethics review board with the power to enforce any publicly validated compliance with this policy.

The letter follows an October 2018 blog post by anonymous Microsoft employees released on Medium in which they demanded the company withdraw its bid for a $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract with the Department of Defense.

At the time, the company responded with its own blog post in which it said it didn’t “ask or expect everyone who works a Microsoft to support every decision the company takes” and that any employee uncomfortable working on a project could ask to be affected to a different one.

But employees rejected that proposal in their latest letter.

“There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP).”

“These engineers have now lost the ability to make decisions about what they work on, instead finding themselves implicated as war profiteers,” they wrote.

Contacted by Euronews, a Microsoft spokesperson said: “We gave this issue careful consideration and outlined our perspective in an October 2018 blog. We always appreciate feedback from employees. As we said [in October], we’re committed to providing our technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army under this contract. We’ll remain engaged as an active corporate citizen in addressing the important ethical and public policy issues relating to AI and the military.”