Pro-Palestinian activists protest at Google developer conference amid Israel-Hamas war

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Dozens of protesters blocked the entrance of Google’s developer conference in Mountain View, Calif., for roughly 90 minutes on Tuesday, demanding that the tech giant drop its work with the Israeli government amid the country’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The protest group, which accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, held two events on Tuesday that it said involved hundreds of participants.

A group chanted “Shame on Google” and “Google Cloud rains blood” in the front of the entrance to the conference at Shoreline Amphitheatre, where the tech giant was expected to announce updates to business including its Android and Gemini AI systems. Separately, the protesters held a rally at a nearby park.

The protesters, who call themselves No Tech for Genocide, have been demanding that Google end its cloud computing contract with the Israeli government, known as Project Nimbus.

The latest Israel-Hamas war began when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking an additional 250 hostage, according to the Israeli government. Palestinian militants still hold about 100 captives, and Israel’s military has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Protesters at the Google event said they believe the company’s technology is being used by the Israeli military for surveillance of people in Gaza through facial recognition, leading to the arrest and detention of Palestinians.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company has said that its technology is used to support numerous governments around the world, including Israel’s, and that the Nimbus contract is for work running on its commercial cloud network, with the Israeli government ministries agreeing to comply with Google’s terms of service and acceptable use policy.

“This work is not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services,” Google said in an April statement.

One of the protesters at the Tuesday conference was Ariel Koren, a former Google employee who alleges the company retaliated against her in 2021 after she raised concerns about the contract. Google said at the time that it had investigated the case and found no evidence of retaliation.

“We want to make sure that every single person who comes here and who might think that today’s a day about celebrating technological advancements — every single one of those people needs to understand that the reality is much darker than what Google has painted,” Koren said.

Organizers estimated that 50 people participated in the demonstration in front of the conference. The rally at the park drew a bigger crowd.

One of the participants objected to Google holding its conference the day before Palestinians commemorate 76 years since their mass expulsion from what is now Israel. Palestinians refer to their displacement during the 1948 Israeli-Arab war as the Nakba, which is Arabic for catastrophe.

The protest in front of the Google I/O conference began at around 9:30 a.m., with protesters moving toward a bag checkpoint. Conference attendees had been asked to take out their laptops and have their bags searched.

The event’s security closed the entrance as protesters moved to stand in front, leaving a large line of attendees who were later directed to another area to proceed to the conference. A line of protesters held a red sign that proclaimed “Google Stop Fueling Genocide.” The demonstration ended at about 11 a.m.

Google’s developer conference draws thousands of people each year, many of whom are developers eager to learn about the company’s latest technology.

After witnessing the protest, several attendees said they planned to do more research on Project Nimbus.

“I feel that it is worth a shot to listen to others when they have a point of view,” said Andres Haro, a 30-year-old software security engineer from Utah, as he waited in a long redirected line into Google I/O’s entrance.

The protest comes after more than 50 Google employees were fired following sit-ins and protests that took place at Google office locations last month protesting Project Nimbus. Google said it terminated those workers after an investigation determined they were involved in disruptive activity that violated its policies governing employee conduct.

A spokesperson for the group behind the sit-ins, called No Tech for Apartheid, said they were not involved with Tuesday’s protest.

“We’re asking more questions about what role we and our employers are playing in the world,” said Roni Zeiger, a product developer who participated in the rally on Tuesday at Charleston Park, near the Google event. “World events have continued to evolve and … people, including employees, are asking harder questions and wanting to work at places that are consistent with their values.”

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