BDS-holes everywhere have been lauding Microsoft’s decision to divest from Israeli tech firm AnyVision, celebrating it as a “BDS victory.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2020
Contact: Sonya E Meyerson-Knox | email@example.com | 929-290-0317
“IN LATE JANUARY WE WENT TO MICROSOFT’S HEADQUARTERS WITH OVER 75,000 PETITIONS ASKING THEM TO STOP FUNDING ANYVISION. YESTERDAY THEY DID”
(New York City, NY) March 28, 2020: The #DropAnyVision campaign celebrates a huge victory as Microsoft divests from Israeli tech firm AnyVision. The #DropAnyVision campaign collected over 75,000 signatures, forcing Microsoft to launch an external audit, and organized a petition delivery with Microsoft workers at its Redmond campus.
AnyVision’s facial recognition technology is used to enforce Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, and was funded by Microsoft. The #DropAnyVision campaign called on Microsoft to halt its funding, as investing in a company that field-tests its products on Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints and though secret surveillance violates Microsoft’s six principles of lawful surveillance.
“At a time when our civil rights are being threatened by authoritarian regimes with access to technology like AnyVision’s facial recognition systems, to have Microsoft walk away from funding them is huge,” said Granate Kim, Communications Director at Jewish Voice for Peace. “In late January we went to Microsoft’s headquarters with over 75,000 petitions asking them to stop funding AnyVision. Yesterday they did.”
Lau Barrios, Campaign Manager, MPower Change: “Microsoft’s decision to divest from AnyVision is an important victory for tech justice activists and the international community in solidarity with the Palestinian people. This decision by Microsoft, a global leader in tech, also reinforces our belief that government, police, and military cannot be trusted with use of surveillance technology like facial recognition, which is increasingly being used in the U.S. and worldwide to monitor, surveil, and further criminalize Black, brown, immigrant, Palestinian, and Muslim communities.”
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestinian rights: “Microsoft’s decision to dump AnyVision is a huge blow to this deeply complicit Israeli company and a success for an impressive BDS campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace. Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians, with the complicity of many corporations like AnyVision, continue despite the threat of the coronavirus, so our resistance to them and our insistence on freedom, justice and equality cannot but continue.“
Dalit Baum, Economic Activism Director with the American Friends Service Committee: “As governments around the world are using the COVID-19 pandemic to justify wide authoritarian measures of mass surveillance, it’s good to see a large corporation such as Microsoft divesting from such a government project. Nowadays, more than ever, we know that just like our health, our civil rights and freedoms are all bound together. Next, let’s demand that Microsoft, a major Homeland Security contractor, divests from the mass surveillance of immigrants in the U.S.!”
Luca Palladino, French Campaign Consultant, Sum Of Us: “Customers, employees and shareholders are increasingly aware of the risks of ignoring the impact of new technologies on real people’s lives. That they have come together in the tens of thousands to force Microsoft to drop AnyVision sounds a clear warning to the industry to halt technology that facilitates the creation of Big Brother surveillance states.”
In January the #DropAnyVision campaign held a teach-in and petition delivery at the Microsoft campus in Redmond. Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, MPower Change and SumOfUs, along with community activists and leaders from Redmond and Seattle the activists delivered 75,000 petitions, passed out fliers to Microsoft workers and discussed how Microsoft is violating its own principles of ethics on facial recognition technology. With banners, posters, mobile ads on trucks and speeches from local activists chanting “70 thousand strong say Microsoft is wrong!”, Microsoft workers joined dozens of Palestinian rights activists at the Microsoft campus in hand-deliver the 75,000 petitions.
Ranjan Pradeep, Software Engineer II at Microsoft, explained his participation in the #DropAnyVision campaign in January because, “As a worker at Microsoft, I’m horrified that Microsoft is funding AnyVision. Microsoft President Brad Smith has talked about the dangerous potential of facial recognition – that it can magnify bias and discrimination, intrude on people’s privacy, and encroach on human rights. AnyVision does all three!”
Except once again, they are lying (hat tip: Teresa and Tomer).
Microsoft has made it crystal clear that the campaign had nothing to do with their decision, releasing the following joint statement with AnyVision.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his team at Covington & Burling have completed their audit of AnyVision. The available evidence demonstrated that AnyVision’s technology has not previously and does not currently power a mass surveillance program in the West Bank that has been alleged in media reports. As such, Covington could not substantiate a breach of the Microsoft Global Finance Portfolio Company Pledge on Facial Recognition. A complete summary of the findings is set out below.
After careful consideration, Microsoft and AnyVision have agreed that it is in the best interest of both enterprises for Microsoft to divest its shareholding in AnyVision. For Microsoft, the audit process reinforced the challenges of being a minority investor in a company that sells sensitive technology, since such investments do not generally allow for the level of oversight or control that Microsoft exercises over the use of its own technology. By making a global change to its investment policies to end minority investments in companies that sell facial recognition technology, Microsoft’s focus has shifted to commercial relationships that afford Microsoft greater oversight and control over the use of sensitive technologies.
In other words, Microsoft updated its investment policy to end minority investments in any company that sells facial-recognition technology, as part of a global change. It has nothing to do with BDS pressure leading to Microsoft divesting from an Israeli company.
But the BDS-holes will continue to celebrate such fake victories because 1. their entire movement is based on lies and 2. they certainly can’t celebrate many real ones.