Some responses felt on point while others are truly lacking any backbone
A lot has been said about President Donald Trump’s outreach to the tech sphere, and what the proper response should be from industry leaders.
While some like Peter Thiel have shown themselves to be long time supporters of the highly controversial president, others have couched their statements with an eye to keeping the cogs of business running in uncertain times.
This approach has its place as a CEO’s first loyalty theoretically should be to their shareholders. However these are not normal times, and it can be argued that tech leaders have an outsized responsibility to represent the values of the connected world in the information age.
The business of technology and information services are by their nature a global endeavor, and as such, should reject such vile notions that discriminate against other humans based on conditions such as their race, religion, or country of origin.
Silicon Valley, like nearly every other center of technology in the US and elsewhere, is heavily populated by immigrants. These are talented people who come with the dream of a better life, seeking the opportunity to build something incredible. In fact, perhaps as never before in American history, many of the leaders of this industry are themselves immigrants to this country.
So how are these new captains of industry speaking out in the face of the threat coming from Trump and his executive order against refugees, migrants and visitors from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya?
From the basic look of it, some are doing better than others. A few are offering their support not only to their employees but others who are simply in need of help.
In a post made to LinkedIn, which I guess they are using as their new default blog post spot since they bought it last year, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella wrote that:
“As an immigrant and as a CEO, I’ve both experienced and seen the positive impact that immigration has on our company, for the country, and for the world. We will continue to advocate on this important topic.”
The company like others including Google have directed their legal teams to aid their employees who may find themselves stuck outside the US.
Their CEO Sundar Pichai highlighted the case of one of his employees, looking to offer support and bring attention to the tumult that such decisions have on the lives of real people.
For generations, this country has been home to immigrants like Sanaz. Her story is playing out all over the country. Google is with you. https://t.co/mllnZ5gNDB
— sundarpichai (@sundarpichai) January 29, 2017
As a private citizen and an immigrant himself, Google co-founder Sergey Brin took a more active step and showed up to a protest against the order in San Francisco.
Google cofounder Sergey Brin at SFO protest: "I'm here because I'm a refugee." (Photo from Matt Kang/Forbes) pic.twitter.com/GwhsSwDPLT
— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) January 29, 2017
Of course, Marc Zuckerberg made his voice heard, bringing in personal anecdotes.
Still others took to Twitter to issue their statements, each with varied effectiveness in our opinion.
Twitter’s statement felt bland, issuing a standard message of support that while important, lacked the sense of outrage and opposition that many felt the situation called for.
Twitter is built by immigrants of all religions. We stand for and with them, always.
— Twitter (@Twitter) January 29, 2017
CEO Jack Dorsey did not appear to be much more energetic in his posting, apparently choosing to draw more attention to the effect that such measures could have on the economy as well.
The Executive Order's humanitarian and economic impact is real and upsetting. We benefit from what refugees and immigrants bring to the U.S. https://t.co/HdwVGzIECt
— jack (@jack) January 28, 2017
Hearing from another immigrant who danced around the point, Musk stated that:
The blanket entry ban on citizens from certain primarily Muslim countries is not the best way to address the country’s challenges
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2017
Musk like others including Apple’s Tim Cook, have been in contact with the Trump administration as a part of the president’s outreach to the community. It perhaps falls even heavier on people like Musk to take a stand in letting the administration know that this order is beyond not being “not the best way to address the country’s challenges,” but an anathema to the ethos of the tech community.
Thankfully, there were some voices that proposed more action than others.
While I am not generally a fan of AirBnB for social reasons, their CEO Brian Chesky deserves good marks for his more empathetic remarks.
Not allowing countries or refugees into America is not right, and we must stand with those who are affected.
— Brian Chesky (@bchesky) January 29, 2017
Chesky offered those denied entry free housing to deal with the situation. While probably not a wide reaching solution, it was nice to hear that he wanted to pitch in.
A force in the tech community, Chris Sacca posted that he will match up to $75,000 in donations to the ACLU, with Lyft coming out with a pledge to give $1 million over the next few years.
Still, if there was one company that got truly trashed from this story today, it was Uber. After sending out a tweet that they had turned off surge pricing at JFK in the midst of a Taxi Workers’ Alliance strike against picking up fares at the New York airport as a protest of the ban, they were hit by a wave of users tweeting pictures of themselves deleting their Uber accounts under the hashtag #deleteuber.
— Keegan Stephan (@KeeganNYC) January 29, 2017
CEO Travis Kalanick like Musk is also in contact with the administration, and bears additional responsibility to push for change. The company has stated that they will take the step of compensating their workers who are stuck overseas due to the ban, but they may still find it difficult to shake off the dust from this scuffle.
It is understandable that the heads of companies would want to walk as close to the center as possible, not taking sides in disputes over government (or if possible any) policy as it can cause them to quickly bleed customers.
As the Republicans now control the Congress, it will make perfect sense for the tech giants to direct their lobbying efforts towards the party in charge. Politics are messy, and we are all entitled to have a variety of opinions. Monoliths and litmus tests cause stagnation and cut down on inclusiveness as well.
But in the social age, where we choose our technology companies not only because they give us good service but because we believe that they hold our values, they will have to make a choice. A commitment to diversity is one of those values. When specific government policies pass the red line of acceptable behavior, there is no choice but to speak out more strongly than before.
Hopefully those with the president’s ear will make their opposition heard. If not, then they must have the courage and wisdom to walk away.