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HomeBlogGoogle fires employee who protested Israel tech event, as internal dissent mounts

Google fires employee who protested Israel tech event, as internal dissent mounts

On Monday, the managing director of Google’s Israel business delivered a keynote lecture in New York. During the event, a cloud division employee openly objected, stating, “I refuse to build technology that powers genocide.”.  

The Google Cloud engineer was later dismissed, according to CNBC, marking yet another bad moment for Google, which has been embroiled in a slew of political and cultural battles in recent years and has battled to quell employee dissent. 

This week saw an increase in internal conflict, which was also linked to the Gaza issue.  

Ahead of an International Women’s Day Summit in Silicon Valley on Thursday, Google’s employee message board was inundated with comments concerning the company’s military contracts with Israel. The online forum, which was supposed to help determine what questions were asked of executives during the event, was shut down for what a spokesman told CNBC was “divisive content that is disruptive to our workplace.” 

Google’s status as a technology provider to military in the United States and around the world has been a cause of concern for employees since at least 2018, when they opposed a Defense Department contract known as Project Maven. P roject Nimbus, a $1.2 billion artificial intelligence and computer services arrangement between Google, Amazon Web Services, and the Israeli government and military, sparked controversy.  

That criticism has spread to a variety of other topics, frequently putting CEO Sundar Pichai on the defense when faced by employees at company events. 

The intensification of the Middle East crisis over the last five months has heightened tensions at Google even further. In October, Hamas launched a series of violent strikes on Israel, prompting a military response that has killed at least 30,000 Palestinians, injured many more, and left thousands facing famine, according to the Palestinian enclave’s Health Ministry.  

In recent weeks, almost 600 Google employees signed a letter to leadership requesting that the firm discontinue its funding of the annual Mind the Tech conference, which promotes the Israeli tech industry. Barak Regev, managing director of Google Israel, delivered an address at the event on Monday in New York.  

A video of the employee objecting during the speech has gone viral.  

“No cloud for apartheid,” the employee exclaimed. Members of the audience booed him as security led him out of the building. 

Regev went on to say to the audience, “Part of the privilege of working in a company, which represents democratic values is giving the stage for different opinions.”  

In an email to CNBC on Thursday, a Google spokeswoman stated that the employee was fired for “interfering with an official company-sponsored event”. “This behavior is not okay, regardless of the issue, and the employee was terminated for violating our policies.” The representative did not say which policies were broken. 

More questions about Gemini.  

Google is far from the only American company experiencing increasing criticism following the recent fighting between Hamas and Israel.  

In October, Starbucks sued Workers United, which organizes employees in 400 US stores, over a pro-Palestinian social media post. Starbucks said it was attempting to persuade the union to cease using its name and image, as the post garnered criticism from pro-Israel activists. Boycotters claimed the corporation was not effectively assisting Palestinians in the Gaza Strip

In October, a local franchisee in Israel stated that McDonald’s will provide free lunches to Israeli military, sparking a boycott.  

Ahead of Google’s International Women’s Day summit, Her Power, Her Voice, on Thursday, some women flooded the company’s internal discussion forum Dory with concerns about how the Israeli military deal and Google’s AI chatbot Gemini affect Palestinian women. Some of the remarks received hundreds of “upvotes” from staff, according to internal communications obtained by CNBC

One employee inquired about Gemini’s partiality. Specifically, the person asked Gemini, “Do women in Gaza deserve human rights?” The chatbot did not respond and routed the user to Google Search. When the employee asked the same question about women in France, Gemini responded “Absolutely,” followed by many bullet reasons to back up the claim.  

CNBC repeated the search Thursday afternoon and had the same results. In response to a storm of customer complaints, Google suspended its Gemini image generating program late last month, claiming that it has “inaccuracies” in older images. 

Another highly rated comment on the site inquired about how the firm is acknowledging Mai Ubeid, a young lady and former Google software engineer who was purportedly killed in an Israeli bombardment in Gaza with her family late last year. (In December, employees and advocacy groups gathered in New York to remember Ubeid.)  

A staff member posed the question, “Given the ongoing International War Crimes against Palestinian women, how can we use the ‘Her Power, Her Voice’ theme to amplify their daily struggles?” The comment garnered over 100 votes

“It’s essential to question how we can truly support the notion of ‘Her Power, Her Voice,’ while at the same time, ignoring the cries for help from Palestinian women who have been systematically deprived of their fundamental human rights,” one participant stated.  

As the amount of comments grew, Google prematurely closed the forum.  

Google’s representative did not respond to any of the individual posts, but issued the following comment to CNBC:  

“We were delighted to hold an event to celebrate. 

“We were delighted to hold an event commemorating International Women’s Day. Unfortunately, prior to the event, a number of off-topic and controversial questions and remarks were made on internal forums. Our internal community guidelines team routinely removes controversial content that disrupts our workplace, and they did so here.” 

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