February 22, 2019
Tech CEOs have plenty of reasons to worry about public attention these days, but usually not during their big product events. Tim Cook tends to be giddy when he opens the Apple Event each September. Facebook still makes a big deal about F8, where Mark Zuckerberg once gave everyone in the audience an Oculus VR headset to wear as he walked past them unseen. These events are moments for celebration, not hyperscrutiny: Tech writers who focus on gear scramble to keep up with all the exciting new announcements that gadget-buyers want to get the scoop on.
Microsoft Workers Say the Company Is War Profiteering, and They’ve Timed Their Protest to Hurt
But when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella takes the stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this weekend to unveil the new augmented reality headset HoloLens 2, he may have a worry on his mind: Many of his employees are outraged over a $479 million contract the company inked last November with the U.S. military to use the new HoloLens in a platform that “provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.” On Friday, Microsoft employees sent a letter to Nadella and Microsoft President Brad Smith saying that they “refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression” and demanding that Microsoft cancel the contract and stop developing weapons technologies going forward. More than 50 employees have signed the document so far.
If your goal is to sell lots of HoloLens devices to consumers and companies, the timing of this employee letter stings. No one wants to discuss military contracts while making a pitch at Mobile World Congress. Attempting to force such conversations during a new product launch suggests that tech workers concerned about their employers’ activities have another lever to pull.
The last year has seen a growing cadre of tech employees engaging in collective action to force large technology companies to act more ethically. Perhaps most famously, there were the Google employees who walked out to demand an end to forced arbitration for workers who experience sexual harassment or discrimination at the company—a movement that culminated, this week, with Google announcing it is ending the practice for all employees. By sharing this letter right before a major product event, with a very specific illustration of how HoloLens tech is being sold for military purposes, employees are showing they’re willing to undermine the celebratory moments for the company. It’s a strategy that’s riskier for them, but potentially more painful for their bosses, too.
This goes a step further than presenting a letter or internal petition to management, though that can certainly work. Google, for example, ended a Department of Defense contract to build artificial intelligence for drone technology after employee outcry. By voicing similar demands in advance of one of the biggest international tech conferences of the year, Microsoft employees are politicizing the company’s narrative about a cool new product. It’s not quite the same as a dropping a banner or chanting while their boss has the mic, but it does generate press, and it could complicate the decision for some new customers and firms to buy in.
This isn’t the first time Microsoft employees have demanded their employer terminate contracts with U.S. government agencies doing work they found appalling. In June of last year, more than 100 employees signed an open letter to Nadella demanding Microsoft stop working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the border. By July, 500 employees had signed on. Microsoft responded by saying that it’s not aware that the services it provides to ICE are being used to separate families at the border, adding that the company is “dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families.” But the contracts were never terminated.
This time, however, Microsoft can’t say it doesn’t know how its tech is being used. The contract the company signed with the military makes it clear that the HoloLens will help “increase lethality.” As the letter from Microsoft employees argues, “as employees and shareholders, we do not want to become war profiteers.” Their point is they don’t want to build tech that they thought would be used for more humane purposes, like helping doctors perform surgery or architects design buildings, to end up also inside platforms that assist in killing people. Pointing out all of this during a major, global product announcement doesn’t only make the technology feel toxic to potential customers—it could make working on such technology toxic to future prospective workers at Microsoft, too. And losing talent is a lot more painful for Microsoft than selling fewer AR sets.
Related Stories
Latest News
Top news around the world
Coronavirus Disease

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

Around the World

Celebrity News

> Latest News in Media

Watch It
Julia Fox defends viral ‘Uncut Gems’ interview moment: ‘I was stoned’ | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
4m-p0_-ePd8
Alexia Echevarria pushed ‘RHOM’ producers to show more of son Frankie’s recovery | Page Six
February 17, 2022
E-wTaN9NfkI
Pete Davidson rejoins Instagram amid Kanye West drama | Page Six Celebrity News
February 17, 2022
SsC3dmsI6t4
Aaron Rodgers And Shailene Woodley Reportedly Break Up | TMZ LIVE
February 17, 2022
FoErdRE8Qe4
Chet Hanks Done Talking About Famous Parents, Becoming Personal Trainer | TMZ
February 16, 2022
5_UrULOkQ6o
Woman Stabbed at Foot Locker During Nike Shoe Release
February 16, 2022
TfuXMs1JdVg
Steph's Freaky Side, "Summer House" & "Love During Lockup"
February 17, 2022
9W_raO0zlA8
Tay or Nay, Offset's Sushi Anxiety & Nick on Monogamy
February 17, 2022
PauYHpJRA6o
Kim Kardashian & North West TWINNING in Matching Pajamas | E! News
February 17, 2022
b-_Oib6R108
Adam McKay - Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony
February 17, 2022
tYtzsHoOZzo
Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, and the Cast of 'Uncharted' Talk Most Challenging Stunts
February 15, 2022
d3ksX-SKi8c
Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell on ‘The Adam Project’, ‘Deadpool’, and Possible ‘Star Wars’ Role
February 16, 2022
5TxJsbJr9Dk
TV Schedule
Late Night Show
Watch the latest shows of U.S. top comedians

Sports

Latest sport results, news, videos, interviews and comments
Latest Events
04
May
CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Playoffs
Seattle Sounders - Pumas
04
May
USA: Major League Soccer
FC Cincinnati - Toronto FC
03
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Bournemouth - Nottingham Forest
02
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Brentford
02
May
ENGLAND: Championship
Fulham - Luton
02
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Getafe - Real Betis
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Eintracht Frankfurt
02
May
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Monchengladbach - RB Leipzig
02
May
ITALY: Serie A
Atalanta - Salernitana
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Leicester City
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Mallorca
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Roma - Bologna
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
West Ham United - Arsenal
01
May
ENGLAND: Premier League
Everton - Chelsea
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Udinese - Inter Milan
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
AC Milan - Fiorentina
01
May
ITALY: Serie A
Juventus - Venezia
01
May
SPAIN: La Liga
Rayo Vallecano - Real Sociedad
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Mainz - Bayern Munich
30
Apr
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Bochum
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Newcastle United - Liverpool
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Athletic Bilbao - Atletico Madrid
30
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leeds - Manchester City
30
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Madrid - Espanyol
30
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Sassuolo
28
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester United - Chelsea
27
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Liverpool - Villarreal
27
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Bologna - Inter Milan
26
Apr
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Semifinal
Manchester City - Real Madrid
25
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Sassuolo - Juventus
24
Apr
SPAIN: La Liga
Barcelona - Rayo Vallecano
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - AC Milan
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Everton
24
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Chelsea - West Ham United
24
Apr
ITALY: Serie A
Empoli - Napoli
23
Apr
ENGLAND: Premier League
Brentford - Tottenham Hotspur
Find us on Instagram
at @feedimo to stay up to date with the latest.
Featured Video You Might Like
zWJ3MxW_HWA L1eLanNeZKg i1XRgbyUtOo -g9Qziqbif8 0vmRhiLHE2U JFCZUoa6MYE UfN5PCF5EUo 2PV55f3-UAg W3y9zuI_F64 -7qCxIccihU pQ9gcOoH9R8 g5MRDEXRk4k
Copyright © 2020 Feedimo. All Rights Reserved.