Protesters Call on Google and Amazon to Cancel Apartheid Cloud Project

google cloud

In their continued efforts to end Google and Amazon Web Service $1.2 billion Israeli military contract Project Nimbus, workers from both companies along with members of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and other activists demonstrated at San Francisco’s Moscone Center August 29 where the Google Cloud Next’23 conference was being held under the rubric of “Out with the old, cloud with the new.” The event drew thousands of cloud enthusiasts from around the world to celebrate Google Cloud’s first year of profitability built on the backs of Palestinians whom the project targets.

Protesting Google User’s chained themselves together on a pedestrian overpass and in the street between the two massive halls blocking shutting it off to traffic where the convention was being held creating a space for a rally providing a platform for speakers to address attendees to hear their demands. Calling for both companies to immediately cancel Project Nimbus. They further called specifically on Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian to “choose the right side of history” by terminating the contract.

Demonstrators also noted that “Google and Amazon are doing business with apartheid. Palestinians are already harmed by Israeli military surveillance and repression. By expanding public cloud computing capacity and providing their state-of-the-art technology to the Israeli government and military, Amazon and Google are helping to make Israeli apartheid more efficient, more violent, and even deadlier for Palestinians.” It should be noted, too, that 2023 has become the deadliest year in over 20 years for Palestinians. Their message to the attendees and the company is simply that “we support workers demanding that their labor not be used to power Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and we stand with Palestinian people in their fight for freedom.”

Another salient issue of concern is that “Amazon’s cloud services may be used to enable Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements by supporting data collection for the Israel Land Authority (ILA). The ILA uses discriminatory policies to expand segregated Jewish settlements while trapping Palestinians in densely populated areas and limiting the growth of Palestinian communities.” One reported inquiry by the Intercept relates how Israeli government officials inquired if Google Clouds AI ability could “…build sentiment analysis tools for video and text, including possible applications for ‘lie detection.’”

Speaking to the crowd, Raye, a Google worker, related that with the project “Every Israeli department will have access to Google platform services which includes AI, machine learning and image recognition products. Even if weaponry is not the only use, the IDF can use Google technology for anything as sensitive militarized or violent as they want and Google has absolutely no legal power to prevent it as long as they are part of the contract. We know Israel’s long history of using tech for massive warfare but, if it can be used against Palestinians, it will.”

She quoted an anonymous Palestinian Googler who said, “Through Project Nimbus Google has crossed a clear red line. Instead of being that tech company who used to tout its motto ‘Don’t be evil,’ Google is becoming a war profiteer. Google is engaged in aiding imminent murder, surveillance and erasure of Palestinians. Google is voluntary complicity of internationally recognized war crimes. As long as this contract exists, workers need to stand together and say No Tech for Apartheid.”

Several protesters held signs quoting Palestinian Google workers.  Saying “Working at Google was always my dream job, until I learned about Project Nimbus. I feel like I’m making a living off the back of the oppression of my family back home.” While sign another proclaimed, “If Google truly believes in avoiding unjust impacts through the use of their AI. Then why are they choosing to profit from a billion-dollar contract with a government and military that consistently violates international law?” And ominously another related that “It has become impossible to express any opinion of disagreement of the war waged on Palestinians without being called into a HR meeting with the threat of retaliation.”

Through their sustained actions protesters are hoping that the companies acquiesce to their demands as Microsoft did in 2020 “after sustained pushback from ordinary people.” Those efforts resulted in Microsoft selling their stake in AnyVision, an Israeli facial recognition startup. At the time, Microsoft went on record promising not to invest in “companies that sell the controversial technology” expressing their concerns, too, for establishing company principals around facial recognition development so as not to violate democratic principles.

Photo by Phil Pasquini

(This article has appeared in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and Nuzeink)

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.


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