The Guardian

Can Silicon Valley workers rein in Big Tech from within? | Ben Tarnoff

In our undemocratic digital world, people have little power to shape the tools that affect their lives. But tech workers could change that
‘Google workers flexed this power to force their bosses to abandon Project Maven.’ Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An unprecedented wave of rank-and-file rebellion is sweeping Big Tech. At one company after another, employees are refusing to help the US government commit human rights abuses at home and abroad.

At Google, workers organized to shut down Project Maven, a Pentagon project that uses machine learning to improve targeting for drone strikes – and won. At Amazon, workers are pushing Jeff Bezos to stop selling facial recognition to police departments and government agencies, and to cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice). At Microsoft, workers are demanding the termination of a $19.4m cloud deal with Ice. At Salesforce, workers are trying to kill the company’s contract with Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The media has been following this story closely. But so far it has missed an important part of the picture. Journalists have”. That isn’t quite right. The reason these campaigns have gotten traction isn’t because they’re led by activists. It’s because they’re led by workers. They’re labor actions, in other words – and that’s what gives them their power.

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