Jun 02, 2022
Yesterday, for the first time in company history, Google shareholders like me voted on a resolution that calls into question a contract with the Israeli government and military known as Project Nimbus. Hundreds of Google's own employees have spoken out against this controversial contract, which provides advanced technology that will be used to further oppress and harm millions of Palestinians.
Through its Project Nimbus contract, Google provides cloud services to the Israeli army, making it easier for Israel to surveille and oppress Palestinians.
Shareholder resolutions have become an important tool for demanding ethical business practices in boardrooms. The resolution asks that Google and parent company Alphabet evaluate the harm caused by contracts with institutions that have violated human rights, like the Israeli military, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). These contentious deals lead people to rightfully ask why a company that creates products we all know and rely on every day would also create and supply products to institutions that violate people's basic human rights.
For years, prominent human rights organizations have raised alarms about Israel's brutal oppression of Palestinians. There is now a near-total consensus among the United Nations and all major human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israel's leading human rights organization B'Tselem, that Israel's discriminatory policies and practices against Palestinians amounts to the serious crime of apartheid.
Through its Project Nimbus contract, Google provides cloud services to the Israeli army, making it easier for Israel to surveille and oppress Palestinians. The contract also provides data support to the Israel Land Authority (ILA), which according to Human Rights Watch, uses discriminatory policies to expand illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land where Palestinians aren't allowed to live.
Google has had incredible success recruiting a diverse workforce, and they should be embracing employees who want to make the company better. The company may have difficulties retaining talent if it pursues contracts that run contrary to Google's stated corporate values that attracted employees to the company in the first place. In May of last year, 250 Jewish employees at Google urged the company to support Palestinian rights and end its ties with the Israeli military, and nearly 700 Google employees signed a petition rejecting the Project Nimbus contract.
Google aspires to value democracy, accountability, and safety, and rightfully says that companies "can make money without doing evil." But as tech evolves and becomes more pervasive in almost every aspect of our lives, there is a growing awareness of the threat it can pose to human rights. Google has canceled these kinds of contracts before and it should reverse its contract with the Israeli military too. After public backlash over a contract with the US military, Google outlined new ethical principles for its use of artificial technology (AI), including a commitment not to use AI for weapons or surveillance, particularly in cases where there is a violation of "internationally accepted norms." Given the outcry from human rights organizations over Israel's system of apartheid, the Project Nimbus contract sharply conflicts with Google's stated ethical standards.
As shareholders, we believe that Google's commitment to ethics is a good thing for society and for investors. Not only do Google's AI principles help ensure that Google technology is used to bring people together, rather than cause harm, but these ethical commitments also make Google unique amongst its competitors in a world where more and more users want companies they support to share their values.
Ethical business matters. Increasingly, workers, consumers, and even investors are demanding better from corporations. Google has a choice: instead of enabling human rights abuses, it should promote technology that has a positive impact on the world. Google can and should stand on the right side of history by ending Project Nimbus.
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