Microsoft briefly removes blog post mentioning ICE contract after backlash

Microsoft briefly removes blog post mentioning ICE contract after backlash
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Microsoft on Monday briefly removed a post referencing its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) following backlash over its work with the government agency.

The post from January explains that Microsoft’s Azure cloud product has helped to “handle ICE's most sensitive unclassified data, including data that supports the core agency functions and protects against loss of life.”

Tom Keane, a general manager at Microsoft, wrote later in the post that the company is “proud to support” ICE’s work in “implementing transformative technologies for homeland security and public safety.”

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This can help employees make more informed decisions faster, with Azure Government enabling them to process data on edge devices or utilize deep learning capabilities to accelerate facial recognition and identification,” he wrote.

A Microsoft spokesperson said Monday that an employee deleted the blog after seeing backlash on social media, but the company quickly restored the post.

"An employee briefly deleted the blog after seeing commentary in social media. This was a mistake and as soon as it was noticed the blog was reverted to previous language," the spokesperson said.

Microsoft received backlash online Monday when groups critical of ICE noticed the post from January.

“If you are a worker building these tools or others at Microsoft, decide now that you will not be complicit. Then, talk to a trusted coworker. Begin building power,” the advocacy group Tech Workers Coalition wrote in a tweet before the blog post was removed.

BuzzFeed first noticed the post’s removal.

The backlash came amid broader criticism of the Trump administration's so-called "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which has resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from parents as adults are prosecuted for illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Microsoft distanced itself from the practice in a statement on Monday while explaining its work with ICE.

"As a company, Microsoft is dismayed by the forcible separation of children from their families at the border," a company spokesperson said.

Microsoft currently has $19.14 million in active contracts with ICE, according to Bloomberg.

A source with knowledge of the contract who was not authorized to speak publicly told The Hill that Microsoft was not specifically working with ICE to separate families at the border, adding they didn't believe ICE was using the service to support those operations.

Microsoft competes with other major technology firms such as Amazon, IBM and Google for major government contracts. Google recently moved to cut its contract with the Pentagon for artificial intelligence supplementing military drone use after intense employee backlash.