- On Wednesday, women in tech organisation AnitaB.org said that it has dropped Palantir as a sponsor of the Grace Hoppper Celebration, the world’s largest conference for women in computing.
- Earlier that day, a group of people published a petition on Change.org asking AnitaB.org to drop Palantir as a sponsor because of its work with the United States’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
- The petition, which has over 200 signatories, also asked AnitaB.org to create an ethics vetting policy for future corporate sponsors and recruiters.
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The Grace Hopper Celebration, which is the world’s largest conference for women in computing, has dropped the big data company Palantir as a sponsor.
Palantir has faced controversy over its work with the United States’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to recent reports, Palantir has provided software to ICE that’s been used to screen undocumented immigrants and plan workplace raids. Earlier this month, Palantir renewed a $US50 million contract with ICE.
Now, AnitaB.org, the organisation for women in computing that produces the Grace Hopper Celebration conference, said in a statement Wednesday that Palantir will no longer be a sponsor of this year’s conference.
“At AnitaB.org we do our best to promote the basic rights and dignity of every person in all that we do, including our corporate sponsorship and events program. Palantir has been independently verified as providing direct technology assistance that enables the human rights abuses of asylum seekers and their children at US southern border detention centres. Therefore, at this time, Palantir will no longer be a sponsor of Grace Hopper Celebration 2019,” Robert Read, Anitab.org’s Business Development and Partnership Success Vice President, said in a statement to Business Insider.
The organisation’s decision comes after a Change.org petition was published Wednesday morning, asking the AnitaB.org Board of Trustees and Grace Hopper Celebration organisers to drop Palantir as a sponsor. At the time of publication, the petition had over 200 signatures.
“GHC cannot claim to be for all women in tech as long as it turns a blind eye towards ICE’s human rights abuses,” the petition said. “A large number of workers in the tech industry are immigrants or come from immigrant backgrounds, and are current or potential targets of ICE’s actions…Our visions for equality, diversity, and inclusion should not just apply within our industry, but towards the impact our industry has on the public as well.”
Palantir was a sponsor of the Grace Hopper Celebration last year. Last year, it drew over 20,000 people, and many women see it as an opportunity for networking, career development, skill building, and finding jobs.
This news comes shortly after the Lesbians Who Tech conference dropped Palantir as a sponsor over similar concerns.
The Change.org petition
The petition was the work of an informal group calling itself NoTech ForIce, and was authored by about half a dozen to a dozen people, a woman involved with drafting it told Business Insider, speaking anonymously.
She says that prior to publishing the petition, she and several other people wrote emails to AnitaB.org last week asking it to drop Palantir as a sponsor, but they did not receive any replies – prompting them to take it public, she said.
“To me, it’s important to think about what is acceptable within your community and what kind of injustices big or small are happening,” she told Business Insider. “I do think Grace Hopper has a special obligation as an organisation for women to speak out about injustice.”
The petition had three demands: to drop Palantir as a sponsor for this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration and future conferences, to release a statement denouncing the prior sponsorship and Palantir’s involvement with ICE, and to publicly release an ethics vetting policy for future corporate sponsors and recruiters.
“Another element that I think is also really important is I would love to see the Grace Hopper organisers develop and release a vetting policy for future sponsors,” the petition drafter told Business Insider. “Conference organisers are busy people. When someone says they want to give you money, I understand they want to be like great, I accept and move on. When you do that, there’s a chance that the people you accept as sponsors will not be in line with your values.”
It’s not clear if GHC is considering such policy changes.
Previously, the Grace Hopper Celebration once dropped Uber as a partner following controversy over its treatment of female employees.
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