Trump Opens New Front in War on Big Tech: Microsoft

June 12th, 2020 12:31 PM

Now that Microsoft has joined other Big Tech companies in refusing to help police, President Donald Trump has retweeted a call to have them barred from government contracts. 

Microsoft followed the lead of IBM and Amazon in vowing to stop supplying police with facial recognition technology.  An emailed letter from 250 Microsoft employees may also have forced their leadership’s hand. Since then, former acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell slammed Microsoft for caving in, writing that they should be “barred from federal government contracts.” Grenell added that "there should be consequences for not selling technology to police departments." Trump since retweeted the June 12 post in what appears to be an agreement.

Grenell himself retweeted a Twitter thread by the ACLU’s Twitter account. The ACLU observed how “Microsoft just announced it will not sell face recognition technology to the police.”

The same thread by the ACLU was unabashed in its preaching:

When even the makers of face recognition refuse to sell this surveillance technology because it is so dangerous, lawmakers can no longer deny the threats to our rights and liberties.

The thread explicitly brought this move into context of the George Floyd riots:

It should not have taken protests against police brutality and for Black lives, and the deployment of military-grade surveillance equipment on those protests, for these companies to wake up to the everyday realities of police surveillance for Black and Brown communities.

Microsoft President Brad Smith responded to the letter from approximately 250 of his employees by proclaiming his company’s commitment to social justice in an interview during a Post Live event. “We’ve decided that we will not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States until we have a national law in place grounded in human rights that will govern this technology,” he said.

Smith later added: “The bottom line for us is to protect the human rights of people as this technology is deployed.”

The email Microsoft employees sent to their leadership was a wishlist of politically radical requests, which included, as OneZero summarized as “increasing Microsoft’s employee donation matches; the cancellation of contracts with SPD and other law enforcement agencies; support for defunding the SPD; signing a petition for the resignation of Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan; and support for a list of demands from BLM Seattle.”