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
‘RHOSLC’ star Jen Shah on the dangers of calling women of color ‘scary’ | Page Six Celebrity News
January 21, 2021
LpT2GAwZOLA
'Sex and the City' stars then and now: How they've changed | Page Six Celebrity News
January 21, 2021
OCkpPfUnTjk
Social media influencer Alexis Sharkey’s cause of death revealed | Page Six Celebrity News
January 20, 2021
qkGNQDfKFeE
George Clooney & Michelle Pfeiffer Remember Drinking On The Set of 'One Fine Day' | Actors on Actors
January 21, 2021
KV_Xzrj4QHQ
Tom Holland & Daniel Kaluuya On Auditioning For Marvel, The Oscars And London | Actors on Actors
January 20, 2021
vRFTy9fdxwI
Netflix Shares Skyrocket Following Blowout Q4 Results
January 19, 2021
plCb9L5qQeQ
Mattel Honors Poet Maya Angelou With Barbie Doll | TMZ TV
January 21, 2021
nEnK5Q3VqeY
Chrissy Teigen and John Legend Go Horseback Riding With Kids | TMZ TV
January 21, 2021
5CpLrILyT1U
Celebs Take Over President Biden's Inauguration | TMZ TV
January 21, 2021
3idd0ujio7M
Naya Rivera's Ex Ryan Dorsey Praises "Strong" Son Josey | E! News
January 22, 2021
4ZZkgn-qdjw
Sabrina Carpenter Drops New Song "Skin" | E! News
January 22, 2021
_8bN5L88DMk
Priyanka Chopra Talks Future Family With Nick Jonas | Daily Pop | E! News
January 22, 2021
_ZuZrRtqXg4
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
21
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Eibar - Atletico Madrid
21
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Burnley
21
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Valencia - Osasuna
20
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Aston Villa
20
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Augsburg - Bayern Munich
20
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Fulham - Manchester United
20
Jan
ENGLAND: Championship
Birmingham - Preston NE
20
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Villarreal - Granada CF
20
Jan
SPAIN: La Liga
Real Betis - Celta Vigo
19
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Dortmund
19
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Leicester City - Chelsea
18
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Newcastle United
18
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Cagliari - AC Milan
17
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Inter Milan - Juventus
17
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Liverpool - Manchester United
17
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Sheffield United - Tottenham Hotspur
17
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Manchester City - Crystal Palace
17
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Bayern Munich - SC Freiburg
17
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Napoli - Fiorentina
16
Jan
GERMANY: Bundesliga
Borussia Dortmund - Mainz
16
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Fulham - Chelsea
15
Jan
ITALY: Serie A
Lazio - Roma
14
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Arsenal - Crystal Palace
13
Jan
ENGLAND: Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur - Fulham
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.