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    1. 65

      Good job standing up for your principles even if it costs you something. That’s usually when it counts the most.

      1. 14

        That is exactly when it counts the most.

    2. 57

      Well done.

      Ethics is not something we can turn off during working hours, to maximise profits.

      Technology is just the continuation of Politics by other means.

      1. 2

        Ethics: not just a county near Suthex.

        Stupidity aside, well done to the author for standing up for their principles. This is important and it’s worth stating when it happens.

    3. 28

      In Mexico we have a saying, “tanto peca el que mata la vaca como el que le agarra la pata” – he who kills the cow sins as much as he who holds her leg. It’s a general principle I’ve taken to heart when choosing my jobs, and I hope that I’ve managed to do so. Good on you for being able to uphold it too.

    4. 11

      Good on you. It’s worth mentioning here that Microsoft is going in the other direction. https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/06/19/microsoft-defends-ties-with-ice-amid-separation-outcry/amp/

      1. 3

        In response to questions we want to be clear: Microsoft is not working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Customs and Border Protection on any projects related to separating children from their families at the border, and contrary to some speculation, we are not aware of Azure or Azure services being used for this purpose. As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border.

        Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems they are going in the exact same direction…

        1. 6

          It’s a very confusing article; my best guess is that they are working with ICE, but not on “projects related to separating children from their families at the border”.

          1. 11

            And just because Microsoft isn’t directly helping, they are still helping. That nuance is discussed in OP’s article - any support to an morally corrupt institution is unacceptable, even if it is indirect support.

            1. 7

              But that perspective is very un-nuanced. Is everything ICE does wrong? It’s a large organization. What if the software the company that @danielcompton denied service to is actually just trying to track down violent offenders that made it across the border? Or drug trafficking?

              To go even further, by your statement, Americans should stop paying their taxes. Are you advocating that?

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                ICE is a special case, and deserves to be disbanded. It’s a fairly new agency, and its primary mission is to be a Gestapo. So yes, very explicitly, everything ICE does is wrong.

                1. 3

                  On what ground and with which argument can you prove your statement? I mean, there is probably an issue with how it’s run, but the whole concept of ICE doesn’t sound that wrong to me.

                  1. 14

                    From https://splinternews.com/tear-it-all-down-1826939873 :

                    The thing that is so striking about all three items is not merely the horror they symbolize. It is how easy it was to get all of these people to play their fascistic roles. The Trump administration’s family separation rule has not even been official policy for two months, and yet look at where we are already. The Border Patrol agent is totally unperturbed by the wrenching scenes playing out around him. The officers have sprung to action with a useful lie to ward off desperate parents. Nielsen, whom the New Yorker described in March as “more of an opportunist than an ideologue” and who has been looking to get back into Donald Trump’s good graces, is playing her part—the white supremacist bureaucrat more concerned with office politics than basic morality—with seeming relish. They were all ready.

                    I’m going to just delegate all arguments to that link, basically, with a comment that of it’s not exceedingly obvious, then I probably can’t say anything that would persuade you. Also, this is all extremely off-topic for this forum, but, whatevs.

              2. 11

                There’s always a nuance, sure. Every police force ever subverted for political purposes was still continuing to fight petty crime, prevent murders and help old ladies cross the street. This always presented the regimes a great way to divert criticism, paint critics as crime sympathisers and provide moral leeway to people working there and with them.

                America though, with all its lip service to small government and self reliance was the last place I expected that to see happening. Little did I know!

              3. 6

                Is everything ICE does wrong? It’s a large organization.

                Just like people, organizations should be praised for their best behaviors and held responsible for their worst behaviors. Also, some organizations wield an incredible amount of power over people and can easily hide wrongdoing and therefore should be held responsible to the strictest standard.

              4. 9

                Its worth pointing out that ICE didn’t exist 20 years ago. Neither, for that matter did the DHS (I was 22 when that monster was born). “Violent offenders” who “cross the border” will be tracked down by the same people who track down citizen “violent offenders” ie the cops (what does “violent offender” even mean? How do we who these people are? how will we know if they’re sneaking in?) Drug trafficking isn’t part of ICEs institutional prerogative in any large, real sense, so its not for them to worry about? Plenty of americans, for decades, have advocated tax resistance precisely as a means to combat things like this. We can debate its utility but it is absolutely a tactic that has seen use since as far as I know at least the Vietnam war. Not sure how much nuance is necessary when discussing things like this. Doesn’t mean its open season to start dropping outrageous nonsense, but institutions which support/facilitate this in any way should be grounds for at the very least boycotts.

                1. 5

                  Why is it worth pointing out it didn’t exist 20 years ago? Smart phones didn’t either. Everything starts at some time.

                  To separate out arguments, this particular subthread is in response to MSFT helping ICE, but the comment I responded to was referring to the original post, which only refers to “border security”. My comment was really about the broader aspect but I phrased it poorly. In particular, I think the comment I replied to which states that you should not support anything like this indirectly basically means you can’t do anything.

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                    Its worth pointing out when it was founded for a lot of reasons; what were the conditions that led to its creation? Were they good? Reasonable? Who created it? What was the mission originally? The date is important because all of these questions become easily accessible to anyone with a web browser and an internet connection, unlike, say, the formation of the FBI or the origins of Jim Crow which while definitely researchable on the net are more domains of historical research. Smart phones and ethnic cleansing however, not so much in the same category.

                    1. 4

                      If you believe the circumstances around the formation of ICE are worth considering, I don’t think pointing out the age of the institution is a great way to make that point. It sounds more like you’re saying “new things are inherently bad” rather than “20 years ago was a time with a lot of politically questionable activity” (or something along those lines).

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                        dude, read it however you want, but pointing out that ICE is less than 20 years old, when securing a border is a foundational issue, seems like a perfect way to intimate that this is an agency uninterested in actual security and was formed expressly to fulfill a hyper partisan, actually racist agenda. Like, did we not have border security or immigration services or customs enforcement prior to 2002/3? Why then? What was it? Also, given that it was formed so recently, it can be unformed, it can be dismantled that much easier.

                        1. 1

                          I don’t understand your strong reaction here. I was pointing out that if your goal was to communicate something, just saying it’s around 20 years old didn’t seem to communicate what you wanted to me. Feel free to use that feedback or not use it.

              5. 2

                In addition, I bet the ICE is using Microsoft Windows and probably Office too.

              6. 1

                That’s a great point, and no I don’t advocate for all Americans to stop paying taxes.

            2. 0

              any support to an morally corrupt institution is unacceptable, even if it is indirect support

              A very interesting position. It just requires you to stop using any currency. ;-)

              1. 3

                No, it requires you to acknowledge that using any currency is unacceptable.

                Of course not using any currency is also unacceptable. When faced with two unacceptable options, one has to choose one. Using the excuse “If I follow my ethics I can never do anything” is just a lazy way to never think about ethics. In reality everything has to be carefully considered and weighed on a case by case basis.

                1. 1

                  Of course not using any currency is also unacceptable.

                  Why? Currency is just a tool.

                  Using the excuse “If I follow my ethics I can never do anything” is just a lazy way to never think about ethics.

                  I completely agree.
                  Indeed I think that we can always be ethical, but we should look beyond the current “public enemy”, be it Cambridge Analytica or ICE. These are just symptoms. We need to cure the disease.

    5. 11

      Well done. This is so important, and it is on all of us right now to choose to do the right thing.

      “Right now” because injustice is clearly being perpetrated by our government in ways that we know about, and on a scale that is growing, and threatens to grow into another stain on history.

    6. 5

      Some thoughts:

      Now that trump is easing up the policy, would you allow this customer now?

      I would prefer you refuse to buy from people you view as unethical rather than refuse to sell. Eventually they run out of money and cannot buy.

      Clearly this is good for marketing in some ways.

      This reminds me of those bakers who did not want to sell to homosexuals because they view being homosexual as unethical. I struggle with saying they are wrong and this is right at the same time without presuming I can read peoples minds and intents.

      1. 1

        How exactly do you stop buying from a government organisation? Also with that logic if a kid walks up to you asking for a gun so he can shoot up a school, its ok as long as you don’t buy anything from the kid?

        1. 2

          How exactly do you stop buying from a government organisation?

          Voting seems to be how it usually works.

          Also with that logic if a kid walks up to you asking for a gun so he can shoot up a school, its ok as long as you don’t buy anything from the kid?

          How would I know that the individual was going to cause harm without mind reading powers?

          Your counter example also seems off because the government enforcing immigration laws is far more morally ambiguous than shooting up a school, it is also not a kid.

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            How would I know that the individual was going to cause harm without mind reading powers?

            Because they make it known to you before. Like how you can tell what government departments are doing.

    7. 6

      Good on you! The more people stand up for what is just, the better world gets for everyone.

      1. [Comment removed by author]

    8. 5

      Engineers of all stripes have an ethical responsibility to uphold, and it’s in making tough choices, like turning down customers, that you prove your worth.

      That being said, it makes me sad that a scandal like this one, which in my sense is plagued by political opportunism on the left, has so much traction.

      1. 1

        Yeah… Some problems are not so clear cut. There are big differences between short term and long term outcomes, also between intent and outcome, as well as adjusting plans that don’t work well currently vs having evil intent.

        • Would I say Trump has much empathy? … no.
        • Is the right wing sadistic and enjoy suffering? I would also say no.
        1. 2

          Is the right wing sadistic and enjoy suffering? I would also say no.

          Citation needed.

          1. 0

            That’s pretty outrageous, the hysterics that can be seen everywhere are laughable.

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              So people getting upset that armed cops drag off 4 month old babies from their parents in an act of open terrorism seems outrageous and hysterical to you? People being blase or amused by the same thing seems outrageous to me.

              1. 0

                No - The hysterics are ignoring the word of people there.


                This man seems genuine to me, and seems to save more children than anyone here.

                1. 2

                  moreover, if you take your or nebkors presented opinion at face value, that agent being interviewed is a terrorist, sadistic and evil. I never said wanting children to be safe are hysterics, but calling half the population evil while ignoring the whole argument is disingenuous to me.

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                    There is no argument in favor of this policy other than the stated rationale of terrorism. You can either be for terrorism or against it. But being for it, you should get used to being called evil.

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                      I’m not for it. as far as I know trump signed an order to end it which is fine by me. I never said I wanted children separated from parents.

                      1. 2

                        Yes, now they get to be imprisoned with their parents, for the crime of attempting to seek asylum, which is against the law for our government to do.

                  2. 2

                    I’m not saying all of ICE are terrorists. They do, however, all belong to the same violent and murderous gang.

            2. 3

              Yes, they are totally laughable if you’re a fascist or fascist sympathizer.

              1. 0

                it sounds like you live is an echo chamber or out of control feedback loop. Try getting information from more than one source.

                1. 1

                  We have access to the same information, and have come to different conclusions due to our conflicting values. If you’re ashamed of the label that fits your opinions, perhaps you should consider changing your opinions or values to be less shameful. But I assure you, the problem is not my sources of information. I suspect it’s not yours, either.

                  1. -1

                    You are a like a sick caricature, You behave exactly how fox news and the right want their opposition to behave, total lunacy is easy to beat in elections.

                    1. 2

                      Citation needed.

                      1. 1

                        Ok, let me apologize.

                        My ideal situation is everyone is allowed in, and there would a sentiment of charitable nature in the population fostered outside of government mandate to care for those who are in bad situations.

                        What would your ideal situation be?

                        1. 2

                          The barest start is to acknowledge the current atrocities being directly executed by the police and immigration systems, and working to stop them. Things like people being cruelly detained, isolated, abandoned in a heartless bureaucracy, children separated, deporting to known unsafe zones, etc. Next up is recognizing and taking responsibility for our actions (“our” being the United States, apologies for US-centricity) in Latin America over the course of the last 150 years, along with recent drug policy, climate change, etc. that have created this refugee crisis.

                          Then we can get into abolishing prisons, disarming all cops, restoring the top marginal tax rate to 90%, providing healthcare and education and food, etc. and really start getting it correct.

                          So yeah, because the right wing believes in property over persons, in denying moral responsibilities, in short-sighted selfishness and avarice, they are by definition heartless and sadistic. They are in charge, and their actions speak for themselves.

    9. 5

      I’m actually surprised at the overwhelmingly positive responses to this.

      There are many weak points in this particular ‘moral’ decision. First of all, if one moral culpability transfers to anybody that one does business with, you are essentially incapable of doing anything without being implicit in all kinds of things. Everything you use has had filthy hands on them. Minerals from African warlords abducting and coercing child-soldiers. Oil from middle eastern regimes, all of which are unsavoury. Everything you buy is taxed by the US government, so buying a candy from the petrol station means im contributing to the drone bombing of people on a low-res screen.

      Does having children protect you from criminal liability? Do we forgive criminals because they have children and putting them in jail would be separating children from their parents? If we do, this is simply discrimination against non-parents

      And how much sleuthing must one do to protect oneself conscience here? If it’s just a simple google of whomever one does business with, how do you convince yourself that you are not ‘turning a blind eye’ when enough money is on the table? The alternative of course means that in every transaction one must also be a dedicated detective, making sure that the person who’s buying your bike on craigslist doesn’t actually download unlicensed music. Clearly this level of burden is not reasonable, yet the opposite is simply ineffectual and everywhere in between is just a tradeoff between the two.

      The more lenient one approaches the illegal-immigration issue, the more you tip the balance in favour of people coming. This exposes them to all kind of abuse and risk. It also discriminates against law-abiders. Why should people who follow the laws get punished by having to wait years while those that do not can just sneak it and benefit from the infrastructure, culture and all the other benefits of a developed country?

      If a hobo family squats on your house right now, and you want to kick them off your property, but are willing to keep the kid in your home so he doesn’t freeze to death, you are actually a war criminal according to some people here.

      It truly boggles the mind.

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        I think the argument is that just because you can’t prevent all evil doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to prevent some evil. That seems sensible to me. Certainly, it’s something I try to live by.

        I do somewhat agree with the gist of your argument though. I find a lot of the moralizing and attention around this issue to be pretty inconsistent. But that’s nothing new and is true of a lot of other things too. With that said, trying to tell people that they should be exercise boycotts and be outraged in a properly proportionate and consistent way is just never going to go over well.

        Harping on the inconsistency might seem like a trite affair given what’s happening, but it always comes back to tribalism. It seems inescapable.

      2. 2

        Whether (any policy involving different treatment for carers of kids) is discrimination against non parents depends on perspective. Every person benefits (once, as a child) from them, after all - unless you manage to spring fully formed from the earth.

        1. 1

          We are talking about benefit to parents not to children. While everyone was a child once not everybody will become or are parents.

          You are confusing the benefit derived from being a child and one derived from being a parent.

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            I don’t think the two are so separable; I think it’s reasonably clear (demographically) that advantages held by parents typically accrue to their children.

      3. 1

        Your opinion is grotesque.

        1. 1

          thank you for your well thought out and elaborated response.

          1. 0

            It is impossible to explain basic human decency to someone who finds the whole concept stupid. Your glib argument that there is no point in taking any moral stand at all because there is no perfection in the world is self-refuting. Your claim that not ripping babies from the arms of parents is “discrimination” against non-parents is ugly. Some people don’t have moral sense. Ok.

            1. 1

              Your only argument is calling mine “self-refuting” and “ugly”. There’s absolutely no substance in any of it.

              If you don’t like my argument but cannot logically refute it, then I think it is YOUR position that need a good reconsideration.

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                There is nothing logical or illogical about morality. It’s as logical to be sociopath as to be a decent person. But it’s telling that “libertarians” who find affirmative action to be the authoritarian bootheel of the armed state find lawbreaking by heavily armed ICE thugs in the cause of openly proclaimed terrorism plus enormously profitable no-bid government contracts for dog cages for human beings to be fair and reasonable. It’s almost as if your libertarian principles are just a bogus rationale for creepy selfishness and nothing like a coherent political idea.

                1. 1

                  find lawbreaking by heavily armed ICE thugs

                  It’s not illegal to stop criminals from entering the country illegally.

                  Additionally, if you allow people to bring in children to be used as essentially immigration hostage, then they will keep doing it, subjecting even MORE CHILDREN to the dangerous and inhumane condition of people smuggling.

                  Don’t just consider only local effects. That would be short-sighted and stupid.

                  1. 3

                    They are not criminals. Particularly the children are not criminals. Many of the parents are attempting to apply for asylum under US law. I love how you “libertarians” don’t give damn about rule of law or due process when you feel a little uneasy. At that point, you are on your knees begging the armed police, at taxpayers expense, to commit any brutality.

                    Do you think people come over the border leaving comfortable homes? These people are fleeing the most desperate conditions. Our policies can make us despicable, but they can’t make parents not take even the slimmest chances to save their children.

                    1. 2

                      The US can only take in so many people. There must be rules on how to choose who gets to go in. These rules must be followed, otherwise, you might as well have open border.

                      Do you want open border?

                      1. 1

                        There are rules. Those rules are not being followed by the administration. But again, it is striking how libertarians will find that laws like taxes to pay for health care are impermissable violations of basic human rights, while taking children away from their parents and sending them to dog kennels is apparently ok outside any framework of law at all. Great moral system.

    10. 3

      Well done.

    11. 2


      1. 0

        Can we keep the hashtags to twitter?

        1. 7

          Can we keep the politics to Twitter?

          1. 6

            (Thanks, purpose of my post was to call out this point. I feel a tension with lobste.rs turning a blind eye to the politics of tech - as signified by there not being a politics tag.)

          2. 4

            No, tech and politics are inseparable. What you choose to advance is a political decision. The only politics we should exclude from lobsters is truly intolerant zero-sum politics. If you wrote an article about trying to help families in Venezuela with a right wing bent I doubt any would bat an eye. It’s about trying to do good instead of being unable to see outside of zero sum attitudes.

            Politics is fine, articles that advocate for zero-sum views are not. We should be moving forward and using creative solutions that help everyone where possible and making mutual compromises when it’s not. This is not a partisan view.

            1. 3

              Why do you think Lobsters doesn’t have a “politics” tag?

              1. 1

                I don’t really have anything more to add here, I just think it’s funny that someone (presumably u/voronoipotato) downvoted a question as “incorrect”.

    12. 2

      This reminds me very strongly of http://neveragain.tech/, right down to the point about IBM supporting the Holocaust. I tip my hat to these people for sticking to their ethics.

    13. 1

      Thank you.

    14. 1

      Unfortunately, while the headline is clever, it’s not true.

      Palantir’s worst is done with code written in house, with the same open source codebase we all start with. So long as there are people willing to work there, bad things are going to be written into code and deployed.

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        One note, the specific company wasn’t Palantir, but was in a similar space.

        I agree that not serving this company has a very small effect on them, but it was better than the alternative. Additionally, if enough companies refuse to work with companies like Palantir, it would begin to hinder their efforts.

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          not serving this company has a very small effect on them

          It has a big effect, instead. On the system. On their employees. On your employes and your customers…

          Capitalism fosters a funny belief through its propaganda (aka marketing): that humans’ goals are always individualistic and social improvements always come from collective fights. This contraddiction (deeply internalized as many other disfunctional ones) fool many people: why be righteous (whatever it means to me) if it doesn’t change anything to me?

          It’s just a deception, designed to marginalize behaviours that could challenge consumerism.

          But if you cannot say “No”, you are a slave. You proved to be not.

          And freedom is always revolutionary, even without a network effect.

        2. 1

          Sounds like it was https://www.wired.com/story/palmer-luckey-anduril-border-wall/ ? Palantir at least has some positive clients, like the SEC and CDC.

      2. 4

        But….that wasn’t his moral question? He was being offered a chance to be a vendor of services to a palantir-like surveillance outfit engaged in ethnic cleansing, not offered a job with a workstation. So yeah, the headline was absolutely true. It is up to individuals to refuse, and by publicly refusing to engage, not necessarily internally, they will inspire others to not profit by these horrors.

        1. 0

          It wasn’t. But the quip implies that we can act like a village, when the sad truth is that the low barrier to entry in software development means we can’t really act like a village, and stop people with our skillset from putting vile stuff into code.

          1. 3

            yeah, not really understanding this from the original post. and for the record the low barrier to entry is absolutely not what is allowing people to put vile stuff in code. extremely talented, well educated, highly intelligent people do horrifying stuff every single day.

          2. 1

            This is the best attitude one can desire from slaves. Don’t question the masters. It’s pointless.

          3. 1

            We can act like a village, we just can’t act like the entire population. Choosing not to work at completely unethical places when we can afford it does at the very least increase the cost and decrease the quality of the evil labor. Things could even reach a point where the only people willing to work there are saboteurs.

    15. 1

      Great article!

      This got me wondering. How does one enact this kind of ethical attitude towards one’s customer base at scale?

      It’s easy for the author in their situation to deny Palantir, but what about if your company is so big that much of its business is done withough any human in the loop at all?

      Should we try to write intelligent filters that deny service to people of they come from companies we object to? How do we scan for that without unduly discriminating against innocent customers?

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