Technology

Apple, tech companies criticize Trump's transgender decision

A number of tech industry giants, including Apple, Google, Facebook and IBM, are voicing opposition to President Trump's move to rescind some protections for transgender students.

"We disagree with any effort to limit or rescind [transgender student's] rights and protections," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday.

"Apple believes everyone deserves a chance to thrive in an environment free from stigma and discrimination. We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals."

The statement comes a day after the Justice Department and Education Department decided to rescind an Obama-era guidance for schools that transgender students be allowed to use bathrooms and other facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The guidance had been issued under the Obama administration.

Other tech companies quickly followed suit, criticizing the Trump administration's decision.

"We've long advocated for policies that provide equal rights and treatment for all," a Google spokesperson said. "We're deeply concerned to see a roll-back in transgender students' rights."

IBM noted its commitment to LGBT inclusion and said it is on the same page with Google and Apple.

"IBM has had an explicit policy of non-discrimination based on gender identity or expression since 2002, and we are opposed to discrimination in all its forms, including any policies that discriminate based on gender identity in education," an IBM spokesperson said.

Facebook, whose founder Mark Zuckerberg has been publicly critical of Trump's immigration policies, also sounded off on the matter.

"Facebook is a strong supporter of equality," a Facebook spokesperson told The Hill in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

"We stand for ensuring equal rights for everyone, including transgender students, and will continue to advocate for more rights instead of fewer."

A Salesforce spokesperson similarly defended the rights of transgender students.

"Salesforce strongly believes that all students, including transgender students, should be treated as equals, and we disagree with any effort to limit their rights."

During last year's battle over a controversial North Carolina bill to restricting transgender students' ability to use their bathroom of their choosing, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was among the most aggressive tech opponents of the measure. Benioff has not yet publicly commented on Trump's reversal, though.

Asked for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson pointed towards a tweet by President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith.

Yahoo criticized Trump's policy most explicitly, calling the administration's actions "troubling" and saying that they go "against all that we believe in."

Aside from Smith's tweet, tech executives have yet to speak out against Trump's reversal of the protections in force. DC technology industry insiders noted there were no plans for a coordinated rejection of Trump's policy, but they didn't rule out further repudiation.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty were among the leaders of over 100 companies that urged North Carolina's state government to withdraw a law that banned people from using a public bathroom that didn't correspond to their biological sex.

Tech companies have found themselves on the other side of the Trump administration on a number of issues.

Tech groups extended an olive branch to Trump after his victory, but their relationship with the new president soured after his executive order banning foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. Silicon Valley is also nervously watching for an anticipated executive order that could restrict H-1B visas for high-skilled workers.

Asked about Trump's action, a spokesperson for Uber also said the company was committed to inclusion.

"At Uber, we are proud of our longstanding opposition to harmful initiatives aimed at the LGBT community," the spokesperson said. "We will continue to speak out against discriminatory actions and in favor of good policy that champions equality and inclusion for all."

This story was updated at 9:28 a.m. on Feb. 24.

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