Microsoft says it will keep working with the military despite employee revolt


The company laid out its reasoning Friday in a blog post by Brad Smith, Microsoft's president.

Smith does concede that not all employees are going to be so keen to work with the military.

"We believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation's best technology, including from Microsoft", Smith said.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said recently his company would maintain its JEDI bid, saying it was important to support U.S. defense efforts even if unpopular. We also respect the fact that some employees work in or may be citizens of other countries, and they may not want to work on certain projects.

However, a number of people are opposed to tech companies involvement in military and federal law enforcement, with thousands of Google employees signing a petition after it was revealed the company old AI technology to the Pentagon to analyse drone footage.

"We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their back", he wrote.

Yes, Microsoft will keep working with and for the Department of Defense, despite requests from employees to distance itself from work with the Pentagon. "They will have access to the best technology that we create".

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"I think it's very important that US technology companies support our country, our government".

Nearly two weeks ago, anonymous Microsoft employees posted on Medium, a social journalism platform, an article that concluded: "Microsoft, don't bid on JEDI".

Microsoft also pledged to "engage as a company in the public dialogue" with the Defense Department and policymakers about ethical issues surrounding artificial intelligence, including autonomous weapons. In the post, which Medium said was verified by its editorial staff, the purported employees argued against bidding on the JEDI contract because the company might not have control over how its algorithms are used to fight wars. "In the most positive way possible, we are going to work to help shape it".

Smith's letter followed an October 12 "Open Letter to Microsoft" purportedly signed by an unspecified number of Microsoft employees.

Amazon was widely viewed among Pentagon officials and technology vendors as the front-runner for the contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI.

The contract has not been awarded, but Smith used it as an example of "the kind of work "we are committed to doing". Those points state the company would steer clear of "technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm" and "weapons or other technologies whose principal goal or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people".