Airbnb, Lyft, and 56 other tech companies file brief opposing Trump’s revised travel ban – The Verge (Mar 15, 2017)
Lots of big tech companies and some smaller ones filed an amicus brief opposing the original Trump executive orders on immigration back in January. This time around, it looks like it’s almost exclusively the smaller companies doing the same with the revised order issued this month – Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and lots of other large companies are missing this time. I haven’t yet seen comment from any of these companies as to why, and it may simply be either a matter of timing, but it’s interesting to see this shift after the opposition to the order was so high profile the first time around. That could signify that the companies are in fact not opposed to this version of the order, or it could simply be a sign that they’re choosing to pick their battles and, having made their broad objections known earlier, are now lying low.
via The Verge
This is really just an addendum to yesterday’s item about the amicus brief filed by (then) 97 tech companies, as some 30 additional companies added their names to the brief yesterday afternoon. Among them were some of the Elon Musk-controlled holdouts from the initial set, Tesla and SpaceX as well as a number of smaller companies which simply don’t seem to have been looped in to the initial effort. The remaining holdouts are increasingly conspicuous by their absence, though it remains more consumer- than enterprise-focused as a group (HP did sign on later in the day, but IBM, Oracle, and other enterprise heavyweights are still missing), and the telecoms carriers and cable companies are all missing as a group too.
Last week, Recode reported that several big tech companies were drafting a letter to the Trump administration on immigration, though I still can’t find confirmation that this letter has actually been sent. However, those tech companies and many others have now filed an official friend of the court brief in the lawsuit being brought against the administration by the states of Minnesota and Washington. This steps things up a notch, formally putting the 97 companies behind the brief on the other side of a court case from the administration. As with the early condemnations of the executive orders just over a week ago, Amazon is notable by its absence, as is Tesla (whose CEO Elon Musk has continued to sit on the advisory council Uber CEO Travis Kalanick vacated last week). Tesla’s absence is consistent with Musk’s overall stated strategy of trying to bring change from within, but Amazon’s absence may simply be due to the fact that it weighed in on the case separately earlier in the process (though Microsoft has participated at both stages).
Update: this tweet explains that Amazon was asked not to sign the amicus brief because it was a witness in the original case.
Google, Apple, Facebook, Uber plan to draft a joint letter opposing Trump’s travel ban – Recode (Feb 2, 2017)
It’s been interesting to watch the early separate responses of big tech companies to the immigration executive orders begin to coalesce into something more like a joined-up response, with both combined efforts on possible lawsuits in states like Washington, and now this letter from several companies. This letter could have focused merely on the practical aspects of the impact of the EOs on the companies and their employees, but goes further than that (at least in the the current draft) to address refugees and use words like compassion, going beyond mere self interest. The letter is measured and offers assistance in finding better ways to address the intended goals of the recent actions on immigration, which is at once less confrontational and also slightly condescending – I’m curious to see if the text evolves at all from this version. At any rate, it’s clear that we’re going to see ongoing engagement at various levels by the tech industry in this issue, including from a number of companies which participate in Trump’s tech councils.
The tech industry’s response to the Trump administration’s executive orders on immigration has predictably become a competitive dynamic, with Uber customers boycotting the company over a perceived weaker response to the situation than major competitor Lyft. This BuzzFeed piece does a nice job drilling down a bit and separating the rhetorical and practical responses of both companies to the immigration moves, which is more nuanced than the boycott implies. But this raises two other big points. Firstly, to what extent will a failure to stand up for certain causes start to be used as a weapon against companies? We’re already seeing both a backlash against Uber from those who oppose the immigration ban and a backlash against Starbucks from those who dislike its commitment to hire more refugees. No wonder tech companies have been reluctant to take a stand – after such a divisive election, there are large chunks of every company’s customers and potential customers on each side of the issue, and these issues are complex. Secondly, how interchangeable are Uber and Lyft really, to the extent that a temporary boycott might shift meaningful usage from one to the other in a permanent way? I’ve argued in the past that the nastiness that’s characterized competition between the two stems from their fundamental lack of differentiation, which makes them that much more vulnerable to perceived differences and makes them fight that much dirtier to get and keep customers.
The executive orders on immigration blew up over the weekend, with most major tech companies finding their voices in opposing some of the policies of the new administration. But this article argues that the next set of changes to immigration policy might actually hit big tech companies even harder, putting the administration back on a collision course with the industry. As noted in my comment from Saturday, the responses from tech companies have ranged from moral condemnations to mere declarations that the policies would be disruptive to their businesses – any change to work visas would sit in that second bucket for many big companies, and they’d be likely to push back.
Silicon Valley’s responses to Trump’s immigration executive orders, from strongest to weakest – The Verge (Jan 28, 2017)
This is a good summary of the responses from the tech industry so far to President Trump’s executive orders on immigration from Friday. It also does a nice job sorting the responses by strength – there’s quite a range in the responses, from those focusing narrowly on the practical impacts on employees of each company to those issuing broader moral condemnations of the policy. This certainly won’t be the last we hear on this topic. It’s notable that as of right now Amazon is one of the major holdouts among the big consumer tech companies.
via The Verge
In the last day or so, both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg have chimed in on different Trump administration policies in Facebook posts. Sandberg had been criticized for being so silent on some of the administration’s policies regarding women, given that she’s been such an advocate for women, and has now chimed in on abortion policy in overseas aid. Zuckerberg voiced opinions about immigration policy, specifically the restrictions on immigration which are apparently about to go into effect. I won’t comment on the specific policies in detail here, other than to say that like many people I’m disheartened by the speed with which immigration policy is changing in ways that will have devastating effects on many immigrants, whether refugees or people here on a green card. The point from the perspective of this site is that these are some of the first public statements from executives at major tech companies to critique specific policies of the Trump administration, while most tech companies seem to be treading very carefully at the moment, presumably for fear of becoming targets of angry tweets or threats. I wonder if we’ll see that change in subtle ways in the coming weeks and months, with Facebook potentially leading the way. Importantly, none of the comments from Zuckerberg or Sandberg are vitriolic, but instead are very measured (Zuckerberg’s in particular are quite balanced on several different issues within the broad umbrella of immigration policy). There’s clearly room for constructive engagement here.