The Woke Workforce - Digital activism has come to the workplace, with staff publicly holding leadership to account. Bosses should tread carefully in response.

By Pattie Walsh

05-2019

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In June 2018, news leaked to the US tech website Gizmodo that Google would not be renewing its contract with the US Defense Department, which was deploying Google artificial intelligence tools for the analysis of military drone footage – an initiative known as Project Maven. The decision came after intense pressure from more than 4,000 Google staffers, who signed a petition calling for the Pentagon contract to be terminated, despite leaked internal emails showing that Google’s senior leadership “was enthusiastically supportive” of the project.

Weeks later the search giant responded further to the revolution in its ranks, first unveiling a set of AI Principles [see Section 3: Tech Is Not Value Neutral] and then, in October 2018, also withdrawing from the bidding for the contract for a Pentagon cloud-computing project known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) – which was reportedly worth $10 billion over ten years. Campaign Igroup the Tech Workers Coalition hailed the decision in a Medium post, in which the group stated: “During the last few months, we have seen unprecedented levels of unrest within the tech industry from fellow disgruntled workers who are opposed to technologies that their own companies are developing.”

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