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Google fires engineer who protested at a company-sponsored Israeli tech conference

'I refuse to build technology that powers genocide or surveillance,' he shouted.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Google has fired a Cloud engineer who interrupted Barak Regev, the managing director of its business in Israel, during a speech at an Israeli tech event in New York, according to CNBC. "I'm a Google software engineer and I refuse to build technology that powers genocide or surveillance!" the engineer was seen and heard shouting in a video captured by freelance journalist Caroline Haskins that went viral online. While being dragged away by security — and amidst jeers from the audience — he continued talking and referenced Project Nimbus. That's the $1.2 billion contract Google and Amazon had won to supply AI and other advanced technologies to the Israeli military.

Last year, a group of Google employees published an open letter urging the company to cancel Project Nimbus, in addition to calling out the "hate, abuse and retaliation" Arab, Muslim and Palestinian workers are getting within the company. "Project Nimbus puts Palestinian community members in danger! I refuse to build technology that is gonna be used for cloud apartheid," the engineer said. After he was removed from the venue, Regev told the audience that "[p]art of the privilege of working in a company, which represents democratic values is giving the stage for different opinions." He ended his speech after a second protester interrupted and accused Google of being complicit in genocide.

The incident took place during the MindTheTech conference in New York. Its theme for the year was apparently "Stand With Israeli Tech," because investments in Israel slowed down after the October 7 Hamas attacks. Haskins wrote a detailed account of what she witnessed at the event, but she wasn't able to stay until it wrapped up, because she was also thrown out by security.

The Google engineer who interrupted the event told Haskins that he wanted "other Google Cloud engineers to know that this is what engineering looks like — is standing in solidarity with the communities affected by your work." He spoke to the journalist anonymously to avoid professional repercussions, but Google clearly found out who he was. In a statement to Engadget, a Google spokesperson said, "Earlier this week, an employee disrupted a coworker who was giving a presentation – interfering with an official company-sponsored event. This behavior is not okay, regardless of the issue, and the employee was terminated for violating our policies."

Update, March 9 2024, 1:58PM ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from Google.