The list of companies opposing President Trump’s discriminatory Muslim travel ban has grown. Yesterday, 31 companies added their names to an amicus brief opposing the ban, claiming that it hurts business. The total is now 127 companies, but there’s still one high profile tech company that hasn’t spoken out: IBM.
President of the United States Donald Trump talks with IBM CEO Ginny Rometty as Jared Kushner looks on during a meeting on 3 February 2017 (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The new companies that have signed on to the brief include tech companies like Slack, HP, Adobe, TripAdvisor, Pandora and Evernote. Both Tesla and SpaceX, founded by Trump adviser Elon Musk, have finally added their names to the document. But IBM is still oddly silent.
Tesla and SpaceX were notable omissions from the first amicus brief, since Musk has publicly objected to the ban. Musk claimed that as an adviser on the US president’s business council he would be able to get concessions from the Trump regime. No such thing has happened yet.
“As soon we saw the brief this morning, we insisted on being added,” a Tesla spokesperson told Gizmodo over email. Which may not be altogether disingenuous. There’s a growing movement inside companies to resist Trump’s discriminatory policies, but that movement has been led by employees, not from CEOs.
IBM is one company that has seen tremendous pressure from the inside, according to knowledgeable sources. Last week, IBM issued a toothless statement about the ban using very generalised and flowery language. IBM CEO Gini Rometty currently sits on Trump’s business advisory council and clearly doesn’t want to make waves.
IBM employees have launched a petition to put pressure on the CEO, but many are sceptical that they will see anything but capitulation to the Trump regime from Rometty.
“Since November 16, when Ginni Rometty first published her open letter to Trump, thousands of IBMers have been organising and clamoring for a different approach that respects the company’s purported values of diversity, inclusion, and ethical business conduct,” one source from inside IBM tells me.
“There are employee petitions that have gone ignored. People have openly quit because of [Rometty’s] stance on Trump. People have quit without jobs,” another source with knowledge of the inner workings of IBM told Gizmodo.
Far from softening his stance on the ban in recent days, Trump has doubled down, saying that his ban on refugees and travellers from seven predominantly Muslim countries must be enforced to protect against terrorism. Trump went so far as to say that if any acts of terrorism happened on his watch, it would be the fault of the courts.
Many have pointed out that the seven countries named in the ban have not perpetrated terror attacks on US soil, while the predominantly Muslim countries that are excluded from the ban are nations where President Trump has significant business interests.
The next shoe to drop, according to IBM employees? The so-called Muslim registry — something that wouldn’t need to be a “registry” in any sense of the word to actually track the movements and opinions of any number of Americans and foreign visitors based on religion.
“Here’s the problem: If you go back through your history books they have actually been one of the most progressive companies,” one high level source with knowledge of IBM’s internal strife tells me. The source notes progressive stances on LGBT issues long before many tech companies stood up for them.
“But IBM was one of the first companies to congratulate Trump [winning the US presidency],” they said. “The fight over digital privacy is coming.”
Big data has made it incredibly easy to track people based upon any kinds of specifications you like. And it doesn’t take much to see how the kinds of powerful computing that IBM specialises in would be useful for a surveillance state under President Trump.
Rometty received a $US4.95 million ($6.4 million) bonus this week, her largest since she became CEO in 2012, for helping the company’s shares rise 21 per cent since last year.
IBM sent Gizmodo a noncommittal statement:
IBM’s CEO conveyed the company’s views directly to the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security in person on Friday, including suggestions for how technology can help to promote both national security and lawful immigration
You can see the list of companies that have been added to the brief below, and the original 96 companies here. As I noted yesterday, the original list was 96 companies, not 97 as reported by so many mainstream outlets. One company was counted twice, and the new brief mentions that.
- Adobe Systems Incorporated
- Affirm, Inc.
- Brocade Communications Systems
- Casper Sleep
- EquityZen Inc.
- Handy Technologies
- Linden Lab
- Managed By Q
- New Relic
- Pandora Media
- Planet Labs
- RPX Corporation
- Shift Technologies
- Slack Technologies