- On Wednesday morning, the Tech Workers Coalition set up a giant cage outside GitHub‘s annual user conference in San Francisco to protest its $US200,000 contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- GitHub CEO Nat Friedman had defended its decision to work with ICE, and in response, over 150 employees signed an open letter asking GitHub to drop the contract.
- At least five employees have quit GitHub, and at least four speakers scheduled to speak at the conference have dropped out, all because of the contract, VICE’s Janus Rose and Lauren Kaori Gurley reported.
- Microsoft acquired GitHub last year for $US7.5 billion.
- Read more on the Business Insider homepage.
About a dozen protesters set up a giant cage outside GitHub’s conference on Wednesday morning to protest its business with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
GitHub, which Microsoft acquired last year for $US7.5 billion, is holding its annual GitHub Universe developer conference at San Francisco’s Palace of the Fine Arts.
The issue: GitHub has a contract worth about $US200,000 with ICE. CEO Nat Friedman and the rest of GitHub’s leadership team have defended the work, but employees published an open letter calling their company to drop the contract.
“We’ve heard from some nonprofit groups that work directly with migrants that it’s their belief that disrupting government agencies that work with migrants could negatively affect migrants,” Friedman said at a press event.
At least five employees have quit GitHub over the contract, and at least four speakers scheduled to speak at Universe have dropped out, Vice’s Janus Rose and Lauren Kaori Gurley reported. On Wednesday morning, too, prominent software developer and speaker Alice Goldfuss tweeted that she herself has resigned from GitHub.
The demonstration, which was organised by the Tech Workers Coalition, took place shortly before the conference began near the conference’s entrance. Protesters handed out fliers and talked to attendees as they passed by.
“We came out here to show support and show that there are other tech workers standing behind them,” said a Tech Workers Coalition volunteer who spoke with Business Insider on the condition of anonymity. “We made sure to let GitHub know that as long as they’re working with ICE, they’re not going to get any peace. We hope GitHub cancels the contract, especially if the CEO doesn’t consider it financially material.”
The volunteer said that the group is taking a stand to show solidarity with GitHub employees protesting the contract and hopes that other tech employees see the protest as a call to action to organise against contracts with ICE.
“We are bringing a cage representing the cages that ICE puts children into as a symbol and public protest of GitHub’s relationship with ICE,” the Tech Workers Coalition said in a statement. “The demonstration will be shedding light on GitHub’s contract with ICE and is intended to show support for the GitHub workers who are organising internally to get the contract cancelled.”
In an email to employees, Friedman said that while GitHub and its parent company Microsoft oppose Trump administration policies like family separation and ending the DACA program, the company believes that it can’t be held responsible for how its customers use its products and services – and that, as such, GitHub would not block the renewal of the contract. He also said that GitHub will donate $US500,000 to immigration nonprofits.
“Just as Microsoft for more than three decades has licensed Microsoft Word without demanding to know what customers use it to write, we believe it would be wrong for GitHub to demand that software developers tell us what they are using our tools to do,” Friedman wrote.
In response, over 150 GitHub employees signed a letter asking GitHub to cancel its contract with ICE.
“We are not satisfied with GitHub’s now-public stance on this issue,” the letter said. “GitHub has held a ‘seat at the table’ for over 2 years, as these illegal and dehumanising policies have escalated, with little to show for it. Continuing to hold this contract does not improve our bargaining power with ICE. All it does is make us complicit in their widespread human rights abuses.”
Other tech companies, including Palantir, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, and Microsoft have also faced protests over work with ICE and Customs and Border Protection. Microsoft employees recently wrote an open letter to show their solidarity with GitHub employees protesting ICE.
Business Insider has reached out to GitHub for comment.
Do you work at GitHub? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected], Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.