Silicon Valley may be getting a kind of constitution of its own.
Speaking before a crowd at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on April 14, Sam Altman, president of startup accelerator Y Combinator, said he’s spoken to hundreds of tech leaders and investors about creating a set of core values that all tech companies can get behind.
There’s a Google Doc where the big names in Silicon Valley, whom Altman would not reveal, have been drafting a statement that outlines the tech industry’s position on a number of social, economic, and political issues. The document does not have a title or known release date.
“We’re trying to basically figure out, can we come up with a list of values that we want tech companies to agree to,” Altman said.
The list might include items like a guarantee that a company will not turn over user data without due process, or a company will protect its foreign workers from immigration raids. It might commit to creating “jobs not just in San Francisco, but throughout the country,” and paying women equally, according to Altman.
Altman imagines a day when a tech worker might choose to apply for a job at a company only if it signs off on the proposed statement of values.
He said the effort has been coordinated over email, Google Docs, and a handful of meetings in Altman’s home. “It’s been informal,” he said.
In February, 97 major tech companies filed a joint amicus brief speaking out against the temporary immigration ban. Bay Area-based companies like Apple, Facebook, Tesla, and Google (which all signed the legal document) share a strong interest in immigration policy because they employ so many foreign workers.
Altman, who has emerged as one of Trump’s most vocal opponents in tech, said the industry needs to step up in meaningful ways — beyond the proposed statement of values — if it wants to be a source of opposition.
“A clear statement of values from tech companies about things that are at risk from current policy actions is good — but [it’s] not enough,” he said.
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