Google Fires 28 Workers After Employees Staged Protest Over Company Providing Services to Israel

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
April 19, 2024Business News
Google Fires 28 Workers After Employees Staged Protest Over Company Providing Services to Israel
Google Cloud's logo at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the telecom industry's biggest annual gathering, in Barcelona on Feb. 27, 2024. (Pau Barrena/AFP via Getty Images)

Google fired 28 employees after the protests held across two of the company’s offices on April 16. The employees had staged the protests over Google’s association with the Israeli government, which involves cloud-computing services known as “Project Nimbus.”

The company alerted the police after sit-in protests at offices in New York and Sunnyvale, California, which led to the arrest of nine employees, Google confirmed.

Project Nimbus, a $1.2 million contract, was signed in 2021. It involves joint cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) services provided by Google and Amazon to the Israeli government. Google has said that the program is not being utilized for military or intelligence purposes.

The activist group No Tech For Apartheid is the concern primarily behind organizing the protests. It is reportedly comprised of a coalition of tech workers and organizers with MPower Change and Jewish Voice for Peace.

Google issued a statement in which it attributed the firing of the 28 employees to “completely unacceptable behavior” that created severe disruption as well as a threatening atmosphere.

The company is still investigating the matter, which could potentially lead to more employees being fired, according to the statement.

No Tech For Apartheid has denied the allegations brought forward by Google, saying the company lied about what happened. The group claimed in a blog post that the sit-ins were peaceful and drew commendation from other employees not involved in the protest.

“This flagrant act of retaliation is a clear indication that Google values its $1.2 billion contract with the genocidal Israeli government and military more than its own workers,” No Tech For Apartheid wrote.

In a blog post on April 18, Google CEO Sundar Pichai strongly hinted that employees will be on a short leash as the company intensifies its efforts to improve its AI technology at a pivotal moment in the industry and, potentially, humanity. Mr Pichai, however, did not openly refer to a specific incident.

“This is a business, and not a place to act in a way that disrupts coworkers or makes them feel unsafe, to attempt to use the company as a personal platform, or to fight over disruptive issues or debate politics. This is too important a moment as a company for us to be distracted,” Mr Pichai wrote.

Cloud-computing services have been at the forefront of the company’s efforts, having emerged as one of the company’s fastest growing branches. The division is led by Thomas Kurian, a former Oracle executive.

The division saw a more than 25 percent increase in revenue from 2022, totalling around $33 billion in 2023. The division serves a wide range of private-sector companies and government agencies from around the world alike.

It’s not the first time Google workers have staged protests in outrage over some of the company’s ventures and its approach to AI development.

A previous protest by employees in 2018 resulted in Google’s termination of a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense called “Project Maven.” The contract was largely focused on assisting armed forces with military video analysis.

Despite this, Google has remained largely unaffected by the internal uproar. From a financial perspective, the company continues to flourish through revenue obtained through its main sources, primarily digital advertising and a dominant search engine.

This has proven highly profitable, with Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., recording a $74 billion profit last year. In addition, the number of people working for the company has almost doubled since 2018, from just under 100,000 people to more than 180,000 workers worldwide.

Nonetheless, the company has also faced multiple lawsuits over breaches of data protection and misleading advertising in several parts of the world, including the United States.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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