Google fires more workers over pro-Palestinian protests held at offices, cites disruption

Google has fired more than 50 staffers in the wake of in-office protests over the company's cloud computing deals with Israel, according to an activist group representing the former employees.

No Tech for Apartheid has protested the cloud computing contracts Google and Amazon have with the Israeli government since 2021. The group said that Google fired more than 20 employees Monday night, bringing the number of total firings to more than 50 since last week, the group said in a statement posted on Medium.

The firings came after nine employees were arrested on April 16 during sit-in protests at Google offices in New York City and Sunnyvale, California, The Washington Post reported.

Employees at Google held in-office protests on April 16, 2024 including at the New York offices, shown here, over the company's cloud computing deals with Israel.
Employees at Google held in-office protests on April 16, 2024 including at the New York offices, shown here, over the company's cloud computing deals with Israel.

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Google: Fired employees 'directly involved in disruptive activity'

Google said it had fired a small number of employees who were involved in the protest, disrupting work at its offices.

"Our investigation into these events is now concluded, and we have terminated the employment of additional employees who were found to have been directly involved in disruptive activity," Google said in a statement to USA TODAY. "To reiterate, every single one of those whose employment was terminated was personally and definitively involved in disruptive activity inside our buildings. We carefully confirmed and reconfirmed this.”

No Tech for Apartheid challenged Google's descriptions, calling the firings "an aggressive and desperate act of retaliation … including non-participating bystanders during last week’s protests."

The protests at Google – like those at Columbia University and other colleges across the U.S. – have arisen in the wake of Israel's invasion of Gaza and the subsequent humanitarian crisis there. Israel's action came in response to an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Hamas on Israel that killed nearly 1,200.

Cloud computing controversy

No Tech for Apartheid cites reporting from Time suggesting that a $1.2 billion cloud computing contract Israel awarded to Google and Amazon in 2021 − known as Project Nimbus − may be giving the Israel Ministry of Defense access to the cloud computing infrastructure.

Google has maintained its cloud computing deal is strictly for civilian purposes.

"We have been very clear that the Nimbus contract is for workloads running on our commercial cloud by Israeli government ministries, who agree to comply with our Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy," the company said in a statement. "This work is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services."

Google CEO Sundar Pichai addresses recent protests

Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the protests in an April 18 corporate realignment announcement on Google's blog:

"We have a culture of vibrant, open discussion that enables us to create amazing products and turn great ideas into action," he wrote.

"But ultimately we are a workplace and our policies and expectations are clear: this is a business, and not a place to act in a way that disrupts coworkers or makes them feel unsafe, to attempt to use the company as a personal platform, or to fight over disruptive issues or debate politics," Pichai continued. "This is too important a moment as a company for us to be distracted."

Google's dismissal of employees has gotten attention in the past, including the 2020 firing of a top artificial intelligence researcher who criticized the company's diversity efforts. More recently, the company fired a Google Cloud engineer who disrupted the speech by the managing director of Google’s Israel business at a March tech event in New York, CNBC reported.

Contributing: Reuters.

Follow Mike Snider on X and Threads: @mikesnider & mikegsnider.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Google firings: More workers out after pro-Palestinian protests