On a daily basis, Stewart Butterfield roasts Donald Trump on Twitter.
The Slack CEO is among the most outspoken leaders in the tech community when it comes to the new chairman, which induced it all the more surprising to consider his company missing from the list of 97 tech giants that signed onto an amicus brief resisting the recent Muslim travel banarguably the most unified, aggressive action ever taken by the industry on a political issue.
Turns out, Slack wasn’t a holdout. They just got left off an email.
“Slack heard about this when it appeared in the media and of course we support it, ” a Slack spokesperson explained over email Monday morning. “Its our understanding that a supplemental one is being filed and Slack will be on that list.”
So runs the behind-the-scenes madness as tech companies big and small work to triangulate public policy , now, on a near-hourly basisoften trying their best not to stray too far toward activism or be seen as too close to the administration.
As the tech industry has matured, many of its bigger players have begun to exert power in politics, thanks in part to deep pockets that can buy expensive lobbyists.
Lobbyists can help push friendly policy, but they’re not crisis directors. Under Trump, even veterans like Google face a threat they haven’t quite ensure before.
“The tech industry is younger historically, ” said Erik Grimmelmann, the president of the NY Tech Alliance, with decades working in tech under his belt. Trump’s recent actions have serve as a “wake up call” for better coordination. “I think the tech industry has had fewer people thinking about these matters than they realise they need.”
Slow, tone-deaf answers have already cost some companies greatly. Uber in particular has born the brunt of the anti-Trump movement, thanks in part to its CEO’s participation in one of the president’s business council. He has since stepped down from the board. Elon Musk, however, kept his spot. His companies SpaceX and Tesla were also not part of the original 97 but were present at the next round.
Slow, tone-deaf reactions have already expense some companies greatly.
Many companies had clearly been hedging their wagers. Politico reported Tuesday that several of the tech giants who were on the original lawsuit or signed the amicus briefincluding Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Facebookdonated cash and service to Trump’s inauguration.
Intel, despite represent one of the 97 signees, participated Thursday in what can only be described as an informercial, next to President Trump, at his desk, in the White House.
Many of these companies and their CEOs tend to portray their work as having a higher purpose. Which attains the slow( and from time to time, contradictory) reply of tech companies to the administration’s actions magnified under a not-so-flattering light.
Erica Baker, an engineer at Slack and an advocate for tech diversity and inclusion, summed it up Monday night at TechCrunch’s Crunchies eventanother Silicon Valley show now riddled with heightened nervousnes in the Trump era 😛 TAGEND
Yet, with Trump taking such swift actions, as government contracts and future partnerships remain on the line, tech companies are still treading lightly, debating both internally and externally with their friends in the industryor foeson how and when to participate.
“Were all trying to respond as quickly as we can”
A spokesperson at a different tech company, who was one of the 97, asked which amicus brief Mashable refers to in a request for remark Sunday evening on if they were participating, prior to its official filing.
“It’s hard for big companies to move quickly, and so the fact that 97[ companies] did that so quickly is a testament to the importance of the questions, ” Grimmelmann said. “It’s hard to get everyone to agree to the same speech instantly. Were going to see a lot of ongoing discussion in terms of what declaration of principles should be made.”
Even before Trump, the tech industry’s relationship with the government was beginning to show signs of problems.
The topic of encryption, for example, was a flowing dialogue with the White House under President obama. Following Edward Snowden’s leak of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, tech companies teamed up to cut access. In 2010, Google released the first transparency report, highlighting the requests of private information by the government.
Tech companies also banded together following the FBI’s lawsuit against Apple, to access the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter. Tech companies do look for friends in these situations, taking ethical and legal stands on issuesdespite these stands, they remained in dialogue with Barack Obama, the so-called tech president.
Yet, tech companies wespoke with said they did feel a sense of urgency for the purposes of the new administration. For one, immigration is an issue on which most tech companies can agree. There’s already a shortage of talented technologists, and many tech leaders and high-profile investors are immigrants themselves.
Several companies who missed the opportunity or chose not to sign the original amicus brief have since issued their own letters to the court. The names include Fitbit, Postmates, Soundcloud, Spothero, OneLogin and GoDaddy.
Now that the tech industry is beginning to move as one to oppose Trump, there’s more action in the works.
A letter currently being passed around among tech companies features actual policy proposals , not only a broader look at why immigration is important. “We share your goal of ensuring that our immigration system gratifies todays security needs and keeps our country safe, ” reads a draft of the letter, obtained by Bloomberg . “We are concerned, however, that your recent Executive Order will affect many visa holders who work hard here in the United States and contribute to our countrys success.
That piece, however, is still being debatedmeaning plenty of late-night emails and phone calls, trying to figure out how to strike the right balance.
“Things are being pursued so fast, ” said a spokesperson at a tech company that did not sign the amicus brief. “You’re going to see so many of these that get signed.”
Internet Association, a trade organization that includes Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, Google, Snap( to name a few ), said it has been and will continue to be involved in dialogues like immigration but that is just one issue to discuss over the next four years.
“Were merely in week three of the administration, ” told Noah Theran, spokesman of Internet Association. “While immigration is plainly a very important issue to the companies that we represent, as it is to many companies in the broader economy, there are going to be many other areas where we can agree and work together with the administration to help the internet thrive.”