Google and Amazon workers protest military cloud contracts

Chandravongsri’s parents were born in Laos, where he still has extended family. He saw with his own eyes how CIA-led bombing campaigns during the 1960s and 1970s left a deadly legacy of unexploded ordnance that still threatens lives today, a problem seen in many areas of war, including Gaza. He says reading about the AI ​​capabilities included in Project Nimbus “really scared me”.

Chandravongsri is far from the only worker in Google’s vast international workforce whose background provides a different perspective on the Pentagon and its military allies than many American employees and executives. “There are a lot of places where Google workers come from who have been on the wrong end of American politics,” says Chandravongsri. “There are also a lot of Palestinian employees. They are afraid to express themselves a lot. »

After Google pulled out of Maven, it continued its relationship with the Pentagon, albeit largely through less publicized projects such as anti-corrosion technology for Navy ships and cloud security for the Innovation Unit. defense of the Pentagon. With the announcement of Project Nimbus in 2021 and Google’s bid for the Pentagon’s $9 billion flagship cloud project, the Joint Combat Cloud Capability, some workers fear the company could dramatically expand its military work.

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Alphabet Workers Union, which has more than 1,000 members in Google’s parent company but no collective bargaining rights, went public in January 2021 and has since its inception had a task force dedicated to scrutinizing the work military at Google. Chandravongsri is a member of the group, which lobbied management about the JWCC and the Nimbus project.

Last November, a question about JWCC’s compatibility with Google’s AI principles received enough upvotes on an internal question-and-answer tool called Dory to be read at an enterprise-wide meeting. company. According to a CNBC report, Thomas Kurian, director of Google Cloud, responded that the company’s technology could be used for elements of the contract that did not violate its AI principles. He later published a blog post outlining some of these potential uses. Chandravongsri was unhappy with the response, saying Kurian’s claims contradicted the military language of the US government. call for tenders, which talked about the need to tackle China.

Workers were less likely to have their questions asked about Project Nimbus in company-wide meetings or on the Weather Report, the Cloud team’s all-hands report, prompting employees to make their concerns public. Ariel Koren, Jewish marketing director and outspoken opponent of Project Nimbus, resigned last week, saying she was pressured by managers, an allegation Google has denied. Koren also says she has encountered rejection from other Jewish employees, who support Israel.

Google and Amazon workers concerned about Project Nimbus have connected through the activist group Jewish Voice for Peace. In June 2021, employees of the two companies formed a joint committee, and in October they published a letter in the Guardian object to the contract.

The collaboration represented new territory for Amazon employees, who expressed less public dissent against their company’s military contracts, which are more extensive than Google’s. Amazon’s culture is widely seen as less open to dissent than that of Google, which from its earliest days encouraged employees to speak freely with their leaders in company forums.

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