Sit-ins on Company Dime: Google Fires 28

Liz Wolfe at Reason: Yesterday, Google fired 28 of its workers after employees held sit-ins to protest the company’s contracts with the Israeli government. The employees were part of a group called “No Tech for Apartheid,” which protests the provision of cloud computing—called Project Nimbus—to the Israeli government.

“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,” said a company spokesman in a statement.

It’s interesting watching tech companies decide they have no tolerance for this type of employee heckler’s veto. Anti-Israel activism—which has for years involved protesting Project Nimbus, to the point that Israel even wrote a provision about employee activism into the contract it has with Google—has long been an undercurrent at the tech company. But just a few years ago, when companies wanted to be at the vanguard of wokeness, they treated such activism differently than they’re treating it today.

Back in 2018, thousands of Google employees protested Project Maven, a contract with the Pentagon that would have used the company’s AI technology to assess drone surveillance footage. Google higher-ups acquiesced to the activists’ demands, saying they would not renew the contract and developing a set of AI guiding principles that landed squarely in the middle of the road. “While we are not developing AI for use in weapons,” CEO Sundar Pichai wrote at the time, “we will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas.” After all, “these collaborations are important and we’ll actively look for more ways to augment the critical work of these organizations and keep service members and civilians safe.”

Give an inch, take a mile: Now, employees are understandably emboldened. “I refuse to build technology that empowers genocide,” one Googler shouted last month during a tech conference keynote speech given by Barak Regev, head of Google Israel. The employee was promptly fired for “interfering with an official company-sponsored event.”

More here.