Google fires 28 workers protesting $1.2 bln contract with Israel amid reports army is using AI to target Palestinians in Gaza

AFP , Ahram Online , Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Google fired 28 employees following a sit-down protest over the tech giant's billion-dollar contract with the Israeli government, a Google spokesperson revealed on Thursday, amid reports Israel has used AI to target Palestinians in its months-long war on Gaza.

File photo: The Google building is seen in New York, Feb. 26, 2024. AP


The Tuesday demonstration was organized by the group "No Tech for Apartheid," which has long opposed "Project Nimbus," Google's joint $1.2 billion contract with Amazon to provide cloud services to the government of Israel and its military.

Nimbus also provides Israel with "the full suite of Google Cloud’s artificial intelligence and machine learning technology", TechCrunch reported.

Video of the demonstration showed police arresting Google workers in Sunnyvale, California, in the office of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian's, according to a post by the advocacy group on X, formerly Twitter.

Kurian's office was occupied for 10 hours, the advocacy group said.



Workers held signs including "Googlers against Genocide," a reference to Israel's brutal war against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"No Tech for Apartheid," which also held protests in New York and Seattle, pointed to an April 12 Time magazine article reporting a draft contract of Google billing the Israeli Ministry of Defense more than $1 million for consulting services.

"After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety," the Google spokesperson said. "We have so far concluded individual investigations that resulted in the termination of employment for 28 employees, and will continue to investigate and take action as needed."

Israel has used AI technology in its military operations to identify targets in Gaza -- in some cases with as little as 20 seconds of human oversight,  an investigation by the independent Israeli-Palestinian magazine +972 showed.

The +972 report revealed that "the Israeli army has marked tens of thousands of Gazans as suspects for assassination, using an AI targeting system with little human oversight and a permissive policy for casualties."

The report said that, according to "six Israeli intelligence officers", a system dubbed Lavender had "played a central role in the unprecedented bombing of Palestinians, especially during the early stages of the war."



"According to the sources, its influence on the military's operations was such that they essentially treated the outputs of the AI machine 'as if it were a human decision'," +972 reported.

Two sources said "the army also decided during the first weeks of the war that, for every junior Hamas operative that Lavender marked, it was permissible to kill up to 15 or 20 civilians".

If "the target was a senior Hamas official... the army on several occasions authorized the killing of more than 100 civilians," it added.

Israel's deadliest war on Gaza has killed nearly 34,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The United Nations has warned of imminent famine in the Palestinian territory under siege by Israel.

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