Microsoft employees ask the company to support the protests, after Gates’ tweets about racism

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Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that “black lives are important” and pledged to fight “systemic racism” in the wake of the recent killings, and a number of Microsoft employees have spoken through leaked messages about the need for the administration to take a supportive stand against anti-racist protests.

Microsoft founder vows to fight racism
“The horrific killings of George Floyd, Ahmed Arberry, Bruna Taylor, and many other blacks – and the protests that I raised – highlight the brutal grievances that blacks suffer every day,” Gates said in a tweet.

The billionaire himself stressed that he is committed to listening and learning more about systematic racism and what he can do to help create a more equal and just future.

Gates’ publications come as polls show a large majority of Americans support protests across the country against racism and police brutality.

Microsoft employees ask their management to intervene
In internal letters received by Business Insider, employees spoke of their personal opinions about the ongoing protests against systemic racism across America and called on Microsoft’s leadership to take action.

A staff member called on Microsoft’s leadership to implement a major cultural transformation within the company, led by CEO Satya Nadella.

“I was thinking a lot about how Microsoft could make an organizational change from a more aggressive culture to one that focuses on human-friendly design and empathy for it,” one employee said.

The letters add further pressure on Microsoft to take a bolder stance on the protests, which have been going on for nearly two weeks since George Floyd’s death.

Staff are demanding that work stop with the police
The protests prompted more than 250 Microsoft employees to sign an email that circulated on Monday morning asking executives – including Nadella – to support protests against systemic racism with measures such as ending company contracts with police departments and undertaking internal reforms to support employees.

Police in Seattle, about 25 km from the Microsoft headquarters where many of its employees live, have come under widespread criticism, including by local politicians, for using tear gas to disperse protesters against police brutality.

One of the employees said, “The degree of distrust between the police and civilians is horrific, and the lack of major procedures on the part of officers to win over the protesters is disappointing.” Another employee said, “For several nights, I saw the police use their tactics to harm people more than help.”

Nadella did not respond directly to e-mail or subsequent discussions. Microsoft responded to Business Insider’s request for comment by sharing Nadella’s statement he made in an internal memo last week, before sending e-mail from employees.

“As a company, we need to look inside and examine our organization and do better. I have heard from many employees over the past few days calls for action, calls for thinking, and calls for change. My response to this: yes,” he said, “we have to move.” But he did not adhere to specific procedures.

Microsoft has established a long-term partnership with law enforcement agencies, including the New York Police Department. It provides a monitoring product called the Domain Awareness System, which collects data from detection devices including cameras and license plate readers, and Microsoft has provided “NYPD investigators and analysts with a comprehensive view of potential threats and criminal activity.”

Microsoft has been criticized before for working with law enforcement agencies. Last March, migrant rights groups and some Microsoft workers asked technology companies, including Microsoft, to stop sharing their technology with the Immigration and Customs Administration.