More than 1,200 software engineers and tech workers from a veritable who’s who of the tech world have signed an on-line pledge not to participate or help any Donald Trump administration initiative to design or build a proposed database to track people in the US based on their race, religion or national origin.
Signatories have come from within a wide range of companies, including, Google, IBM, Twitter, Mozilla and NVIDIA, Facebook and Twitter. Readers should note that these are individuals working in these companies and do not represent the firms themselves.
The pledge came in an open letter published on Neveragain.tech website, where the workers criticized the president-elect for campaign commitments and comments he made while trying to gain as many votes as he could.
One of the most xenophobically minded promises Trump made while campaigning was the one that preyed on the mostly unfounded fears of deep within certain layers of the US population; specifically the one where Trump called for the creation of a registry system to track Muslims in the US.
“We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration’s proposed data collection policies,” the letter reads. “We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable.”
The letter goes on to clarify that it recognizes the role that technology has had in aiding horrendous abuses of human rights abuses in the past. It highlights the fact that IBM had worked with Nazi Germany. The pledge also includes a commitment for the signatories to engage in whistle-blowing if necessary.
“We recognize that mass deportations precipitated the very atrocity the word genocide was created to describe: the murder of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey,” the pledge continues. “We acknowledge that genocides are not merely a relic of the distant past – among others, Tutsi Rwandans and Bosnian Muslims have been victims in our lifetimes. Today we stand together to say: not on our watch, and never again.”
However, it is yet, unclear as to whether Donald Trump’s incoming government will ask the tech sector to build such databases, or even attempt to ban Muslims from entering the US.
In the weeks following Trump’s victory, the president-elect has started backtracking from some of the wilder promises and statements he made while campaigning.
While the Trump website still calls for “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” his wall across the US-Mexico border may now be partly fenced, and he no longer is shouting for Hillary Clinton to be ‘locked up,’ and the keys thrown away, as he was vocally advocating less than two months ago.
Time will tell.