Apr 18, 2024 - Technology

Google fires 28 employees over protest of cloud contract with Israel

A Google logo in New York City in March 2024.

A Google logo in New York City in March 2024. Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Google fired 28 employees on Wednesday after sit-ins at the company's offices in protest of its cloud computing contract with the Israeli government.

Why it matters: The protests stemmed from long-brewing discontent among a group of Google and Amazon workers over claims that Israel is using the companies' services to harm Palestinians.

Context: The group of workers, called No Tech For Apartheid, organized sit-in demonstrations earlier this week at Google locations in New York City, Seattle and Sunnyvale, California to protest Project Nimbus.

  • Nimbus, which went into effect in July 2021, is a $1.2 billion artificial intelligence and computing services agreement between Google, Amazon Web Services and the Israeli government.

What they're saying: Google said in a statement Thursday that the Nimbus contract "is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services."

  • Israeli government ministries that use its commercial cloud must agree to its terms of services and other policies, the company's statement said.
  • The protests stemmed from "a longstanding campaign by a group of organizations and people who largely don't work at Google," according to the statement.
  • "Physically impeding other employees' work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior," the company said, adding that law enforcement removed the protesters from the offices.

The other side: No Tech For Apartheid said the firings were a "flagrant act of retaliation" and claimed that Google workers "have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labor."

  • It said some of the employees who were fired did not directly participate in the demonstrations and that a total of nine Google employees were arrested.
  • "These mass, illegal firings will not stop us. On the contrary, they only serve as further fuel for the growth of this movement," the group said.

Zoom in: An internal memo sent by Chris Rackow, Google's head of global security, and seen by The Verge said the company will continue to investigate the demonstrations and will "take action as needed."

  • "If you're one of the few who are tempted to think we're going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again. The company takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior — up to and including termination," the memo reads.

Flashback: Google fired an employee in March who publicly protested the contract during a company presentation at a tech conference.

  • In recent years, the company has fired several researchers who had raised concerns about potential biases built into its AI systems.

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