Sam Altman, president of the prominent Silicon Valley startup mentorship program Y Combinator, thinks that “i
t is time for tech companies to start speaking up about some of the actions taken by President Trump’s administration,” he wrote in a blog post.
On Friday, Donald Trump signed an executive order for “extreme vetting” that halted the US’ refugee program and blocked citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for at least 90 days — even people who already have visas and legal permits to live in the United States.
The countries affected are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
According to Altman, a consistent critic of Trump over the course of the 2016 election cycle, this executive order “is tantamount to a Muslim ban and requires objection.”
Specifically, Altman writes that he would like to see more tech CEOS taking a solid, unequivocal stand on the matter, and more tech employees speaking up and pushing their company leadership in this direction:
“The tech community is powerful. Large tech companies in particular have enormous power and are held in high regard. We need to hear from the CEOs clearly and unequivocally. Although there is some business risk in doing so, there is strength in numbers — if everyone does it early this coming week, we will all make each other stronger.”
Altman also writes that “we should not demonize Trump voters,” and that not all of them were in support of this action, and so he sees it as important to work towards their support in fighting this action.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke out against Trump’s immigration action in an internal email to employees on Friday, writing that “it’s painful to see the personal cost of this executive order on our colleagues.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also cricized Trump, writing in a public post that “we need to keep this country safe, but we should do that by focusing on people who actually pose a threat.” A Microsoft spokesperson shared the company’s “concern” on the matter, but CEO Satya Nadella or other executives have yet to make a formal statement on the matter.
Altman has himself been criticised over the fact that, despite his denunciatons of Trump, the Y Combinator program still employs Peter Thiel — the well-known PayPal cofounder and startup investor who’s also serving as President Trump’s main point of contact in Silicon Valley.
“Cutting off opposing viewpoints leads to extremism and will not get us the country we want,” Altman said in October 2016, in response to calls to fire Thiel over his support for Trump.
We’ve reached out to Altman for additional comment and will update if we hear back.