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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As tech companies expand their power and impact on society, even outfits whose work lies mostly behind the technical scenes are finding themselves in an unfamiliar spotlight.

Background: Microsoft's GitHub unit, a key asset for software developers but hardly a household name, was in the news for all manner of things — from protests over its work with U.S. immigration authorities, to new product releases, to an effort to ensure that humanity's greatest code achievements can outlast humanity.

Why it matters: A big part of GitHub's value to Microsoft is the fact that it is widely used by a broad range of developers. That's why Microsoft paid $7.5 billion for the company last year, and why GitHub is desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to steer clear of controversies.

History lesson: GitHub is a service that allows individuals and companies working on software projects to create repositories of their code. It's especially popular in the open source community and part of Microsoft's effort to stay central even to developers who aren't focused on Windows.

Driving the news:

  • Protesters showed up outside of the GitHub Universe conference in San Francisco on Wednesday to denounce the company for continuing its $200,000 contract with ICE. (This has been a major source of tension within and outside the company.) A number of speakers also dropped out.
  • A worker publicly resigned, citing the issues with ICE as just the latest area of concern. According to Vice, at least 5 employees have resigned over the issue.
  • Meanwhile, CEO Nat Friedman was on the cover off Bloomberg Businessweek discussing the company's move to store important computer code projects in the Arctic World Archive in Svalbard. That frigid stockroom now holds the entire code-bases of projects like Linux and Android so they can be rebooted post-apocalypse (if you can find the hardware).
  • Also: GitHub released a bunch of product news at GitHub Universe, including its first mobile apps for iOS and Android.

The big picture: With an increasingly activist tech workforce, it's not only the industry's giants that have to navigate political controversy and ethical dilemmas. Lots of companies, even those that aren't particularly consumer facing, are being called out by their workers to explain U.S. government and military work, ties to China and other issues.

Go deeper: GitHub and Microsoft employees protest renewed contract with ICE

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
59 mins ago - Economy & Business

America on borrowed time

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economic recovery will not be linear as the world continues to grapple with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Why it matters: Despite being propped up by an extraordinary amount of fiscal stimulus and support from central banks, the state of the global economy remains fragile.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.