When your president speaks in extremes, there’s little room for nuance in the discourse that surrounds his policies. Donald Trump has had one of the most contentious beginnings to his time in office in US political history, with his presidency immediately being met with widespread protests from civilians and disquiet among civil servants. Inevitably, this has also led to a feeling of unease across various industries, with those in tech concerned about what impact Trump’s policies will have on the United States’ position as a leader in the sector.
Trump’s proposed immigration ban has seen many notable figures in the tech world stand up against the president, with it set to have major and widespread ramifications on both the present and the future of the industry. Not only has the hugely controversial executive order prompted protests from major companies from an ethical standpoint, it has also saw them outlining the negative economic impact it will have on US business.
Here’s how the key players in the tech world have responded to Donald Trump’s immigration ban:
Google and the immigration fund
Donald Trump’s executive order to enforce a travel ban across seven Muslim-majority nations and temporarily suspending immigration into the US has rocked the country, and search engine giant Google has made a big statement in its wake. In the company’s largest humanitarian effort to date, Google has pledged $2 million across four charitable organizations in order to help immigrants across the globe, with employees able to match the fund up to another $2 million. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees / UN Refugee Agency (UNHR) will each receive money from the company, according to information provided to TechCrunch.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai — an immigrant to the US from India — has also spoken out against Trump’s planned policy, with an internal memo seen by Bloomberg noting that Google was “upset about the impact of this order,” saying that more than 100 Google employees will be impacted by Trump’s actions. Google also released an official statement regarding the matter, adding: “We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S. We’ll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.”
Facebook, Homebrew, Nest employees follow suit
Alongside Google, other employees of major tech companies from Facebook to Nest, Homebrew, Intercom, Slack and more are matching donations to the ACLU. Early Twitter investor and Shark Tank personality Chris Sacca announced that he would match donations of up to $75,000 to the organization, before then going on to match his own donation and bring the total up to $150,000.
You guys are the best. You give me hope. Thank you. 🙏🏼
— Chris Sacca (@sacca) January 28, 2017
Elon Musk seeks “specific amendments” from citizens
SpaceX and Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk is part of Trump’s economic advisory council, and as such has the ear of the president. He has not been as critical of the immigration ban as many of his contemporaries, responding to a tweet suggesting it is “far less bad” than it has been portrayed by the left, tweeting: “Reading the source material is better than reading other people’s opinions about the source material.”
However, he has also called upon his followers to let him know of “specific amendments” they would make regarding the ban, offering a direct link to the text of the executive order:
Please read immigration order. Lmk specific amendments. Will seek advisory council consensus & present to President. https://t.co/qLpbsP4lEk
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 29, 2017
In response to a debate among his followers regarding whether or not Trump should retract the executive order in its entirety, Musk replied: “There is no possibility of retraction, but there is possibility of modification. It’s just a non-zero possibility. Don’t know more.”
Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia support an anti-Trump lawsuit
Amazon and Expedia are supporting a lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson against Donald Trump, which argues that Trump’s immigration ban should be declared unconstitutional. Amazon and Expedia, which are both based in Washington, have agreed that such a move would harm their business and their employees, according to TechCrunch, while Reuters reports that Microsoft has also followed suit. According to Reuters, Microsoft has stated that the company would be “happy to testify if needed,” while Ferguson notes that the lawsuit will see Amazon and Expedia “lay out the significant harm that this executive order imposes on their business and their employees.”
According to the Office of the Attorney General, the complaint asserts that Trump’s actions are “separating Washington families, harming thousands of Washington residents, damaging Washington’s economy, hurting Washington-based companies, and undermining Washington’s sovereign interest in remaining a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees.” Ferguson added: “No one is above the law — not even the President. And in the courtroom, it is not the loudest voice that prevails. It’s the Constitution.”
Uber’s employee support fund
Uber found itself in the middle of a controversy that wasn’t particularly warranted, after the company was falsely accused of profiting from protests taking place around the JFK airport. After the New York Taxi Workers Alliance showed its support for the protest by calling on a “one hour work stoppage” around the airport, Uber posted a tweet the following day announcing it had disabled surge pricing for pick-ups from JFK. Although the protest had finished, Twitter users were quick to criticize the company for trying to capitalize on the lack of taxi presence in the region by reducing their charges, but Uber pointed out that the price change was a result of previous complaints. “We’re sorry for any confusion about our earlier tweet — it was not meant to break up any strike,” the company told Business Insider. “We wanted people to know they could use Uber to get to and from JFK at normal prices, especially last night.”
The controversy also came a day after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick rallied against Trump’s executive order on Facebook, revealing that Uber would be helping to compensate drivers affected by the travel ban. Kalanick wrote: “This order has far broader implications as it also affects thousands of drivers who use Uber and come from the listed countries, many of whom take long breaks to go back home to see their extended family. These drivers currently outside of the U.S. will not be able to get back into the country for 90 days. That means they will not be able to earn a living and support their families—and of course they will be separated from their loved ones during that time.
“We are working out a process to identify these drivers and compensate them pro bono during the next three months to help mitigate some of the financial stress and complications with supporting their families and putting food on the table. We will have more details on this in the coming days.”
Kalanick has vowed to set up a $3 million legal defense fund for his drivers in the wake of the executive order.
Meanwhile, Uber competitor Lyft — which has seen a rise in its number of users after many took to deleting the Uber app from their phones — has announced that it will be donating $1 million to the ACLU over the course of the next four years.
Reddit, which bills itself as the “front page of the internet,” has become a central hub for online Donald Trump supporters to converse on the subreddit r/The_Donald and, for extremist Trump voters, r/AltRight. Nonetheless, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanion (known as kn0thing) has posted an “Open Letter to the Reddit Community” in which he criticizes Trump’s executive orders, describing his own background as the son of an undocumented immigrant from Germany:”A little over a century ago, a Turkish soldier decided my great grandfather was too young to kill after cutting down his parents in front of him; instead of turning the sword on the boy, the soldier sent him to an orphanage. Many Armenians, including my great grandmother, found sanctuary in Aleppo, Syria—before the two reconnected and found their way to Ellis Island.”
He continued: “My forebears were brave refugees who found a home in this country. I’ve always been proud to live in a country that said yes to these shell-shocked immigrants from a strange land, that created a path for a woman who wanted only to work hard and start a family here.
“Without them, there’s no me, and there’s no Reddit. We are Americans. Let’s not forget that we’ve thrived as a nation because we’ve been a beacon for the courageous—the tired, the poor, the tempest-tossed.”