Hundreds of engineers are publicly pledging to refuse to help build a Muslim database in America, amid speculation that Donald Trump might ask Silicon Valley for help in monitoring America’s Muslim population.
“We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration’s proposed data collection policies,” the pledge reads.
“We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable.”
It currently has 585 signatures, with signatories working for companies including Apple, Google, IBM, Twitter, GitHub, and Etsy.
Donald Trump repeatedly stoked fears about Muslims and Islam during his campaign, calling for a complete ban of Muslim immigration to the US, and has spoken supportively about building of a national database of Muslims. “So the database — I said yeah, that’s all right, fine,” he told one rally.
Earlier in December, The Intercept asked nine tech companies — Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google, Apple, IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, SRA International, and CGI — whether they would be prepared to help Trump build a Muslim registry if asked.
Only Twitter said no, with most not answering or declining to comment.
The pledge was launched on Tuesday, with would-be signatories invited to submit their names via GitHub or direct message. It cites the role of technology in acts of mass racism, cruelty, and murder as the motivation for speaking out.
“We have educated ourselves on the history of threats like these, and on the roles that technology and technologists played in carrying them out. We see how IBM collaborated to digitize and streamline the Holocaust, contributing to the deaths of six million Jews and millions of others. We recall the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. We recognise that mass deportations precipitated the very atrocity the word genocide was created to describe: the murder of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey. We acknowledge that genocides are not merely a relic of the distant past —
“Today we stand together to say: not on our watch, and never again.”
Ka-Ping Yee, a software engineer who helped organise the pledge, told BuzzFeed News: “What’s important to me is that individuals who care about the ethical use of technology can step forward, show how many of us there are, and say that there are lines we will not cross.”
Silicon Valley was overwhelmingly opposed to Donald Trump before the election — but are now tentatively putting out feelers amid uncertainty as to what his presidency will actually mean for the industry. On Wednesday, a group of top-tier tech execs are meeting with Trump in New York — including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt from Google parent company Alphabet, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.
The fact that employees from certain tech companies have signed the pledge should not be taken as confirmation that the company as a whole would refuse to cooperate with a registry, the pledge warns: “Signatories’ references to affiliated organisations below are for identification purposes and are not intended to imply an endorsement by the organisation.”
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