yesEmily BirnbaumNone
×

Get access to Protocol

I’ve already subscribed

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

Politics

Trump’s ban on diversity training sends tech companies scrambling

Experts say the Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping could strong-arm companies into halting the progress they've made on racial sensitivity.

President Trump in front of American flags

Under the order, the Department of Labor is required to develop rules and build out an enforcement and auditing team to hold companies to the new standards over the next 60 days.

Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The country's top tech companies are mobilizing against President Trump's executive order barring federal contractors from offering diversity and inclusion training to their employees.

The executive order could force tech companies with large federal government contracts — including Google, Amazon and Microsoft — to decide between continuing to take hundreds of millions of dollars or pursuing efforts to educate their workforce on issues such as systemic racism and unconscious bias.

"I'm concerned that this sends the wrong message to companies that have done the right thing," said Jason Oxman, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which counts Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle among its ranks. The federal government contracts with hundreds of thousands of companies across a range of industries, including nearly all of the largest tech companies, as longtime partners.

Microsoft, Amazon and Honeywell declined to comment on the order. Verizon, AT&T, Oracle, Salesforce, Dell and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Already, experts and lawyers have suggested the executive order could violate the First Amendment, considering it attempts to draw strict, specific boundaries around the speech of private citizens. Oxman said legal action is "certainly a possible outcome," but ITI hasn't made any final decisions about how to proceed.

The Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping prohibits any D&I training that promotes messages implying "an individual, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously" — language that is a standard part of unconscious bias trainings — or that "meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race," among other provisions.

"Our founding documents rejected these racialized views of America, which were soundly defeated on the blood-stained battlefields of the Civil War," the executive order reads. "Yet they are now being repackaged and sold as cutting-edge insights. They are designed to divide us and to prevent us from uniting as one people in pursuit of one common destiny for our great country."

The Internet Association, another tech trade group representing Silicon Valley companies, issued a statement calling the executive order an "overreach."

"The internet industry is deeply concerned with the administration's latest executive order," said Sean Perryman, IA's director of social impact policy. "This EO is an overreach by the administration and undermines all the meaningful work being done by civil liberty groups, industry and other stakeholders to build a more inclusive workforce."

It's possible that companies could be forced out of their federal contracts or barred from entering new contracts if they hold D&I trainings over the next several months. Under the order, the Department of Labor is required to develop rules and build out an enforcement and auditing team to hold companies to the new standards over the next 60 days.

The order comes amid a national reckoning over civil rights brought on by the killing of George Floyd. Some companies fear the presidential action could strong-arm them into freezing or slowing down their racial sensitivity efforts, harming Black and Latinx employees who have been calling for change.

Christine Hendrickson, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw, said companies should not read the executive order as a "stop sign" on their diversity efforts. "I think it would be worth looking at trainings that are upcoming to ensure that they don't run afoul," Hendrickson said. "But the momentum around ensuring inclusive workplaces is not something I'd slow or stop because of this executive order. It just needs to be done with a careful eye to ensure compliance."

The order is only the latest in a string of efforts by the Trump administration to halt the spread of "race-based ideologies," coded language that stands in for the growing popularity of antiracist education and historical analyses that treat racism as a founding principle of American society.

Moving forward, Oxman said the tech industry will likely begin outreach to other industries to see if there's potential for coalition work against the order. "There's some sense of urgency to understand the implications of this and the intent of the administration going forward," he said.

Lawmakers are already investigating the Trump administration's moves against diversity training at the federal level, which began earlier this month. Sen. Cory Booker said in a statement that the administration's action is "all the more alarming as it comes while the nation is confronting a historic moment with racial justice and Americans are taking to the streets to protest systemic racism."

The Sept. 22 executive order seeks to combat "division and inefficiency" in federal contracting by prohibiting contractors from providing employee training on "divisive concepts," which it defines as ideas such as:

  • One race or sex is superior to another
  • The U.S. is fundamentally racist or sexist
  • Individuals, by virtue of their race or sex, are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, either consciously or unconsciously
  • An individual should be discriminated against or adversely treated based on race or sex
  • Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex
  • An individual's moral character depends on his or her race or sex
  • An individual member of a particular race or sex bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
  • Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of his or her race or sex
  • Meritocracy or traits such as "hard work ethic" are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race
  • Any other form of race or sex stereotyping or any other form of race or sex scapegoating
Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

Keep Reading Show less
Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

The current state-of-the-art quantum computers are a tangle of wires. And that can't be the case in the future.

Photo: IBM Research

The iconic image of quantum computing is the "Google chandelier," with its hundreds of intricately arranged copper wires descending like the tendrils of a metallic jellyfish. It's a grand and impressive device, but in that tangle of wires lurks a big problem.

"If you're thinking about the long-term prospects of quantum computing, that image should be just terrifying," Jim Clarke, the director of quantum hardware at Intel, told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Dan Garisto
Dan Garisto is a freelance science journalist who specializes in the physical sciences, with an emphasis on particle physics. He has an undergraduate degree in physics and is based in New York.
Election 2020

Google says it’s fighting election lies, but its ads fund them

A new report finds that more than 1,600 brands, from Disney to Procter & Gamble, have advertisements running on sites that push pro-Trump conspiracy theories. The majority of those ads are served by Google.

Google is the most dominant player in programmatic advertising, but it has a spotty record enforcing rules for publishers.

Photo: Alex Tai/Getty Images

Shortly after November's presidential election, a story appeared on the website of far-right personality Charlie Kirk, claiming that 10,000 dead people had returned mail-in ballots in Michigan. But after publishing, a correction appeared at the top of the story, completely debunking the misleading headline, which remains, months later, unchanged.

"We are not aware of a single confirmed case showing that a ballot was actually cast on behalf of a deceased individual," the correction, which quoted Michigan election officials, read.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
People

Google’s productivity guru has some advice for you

Here's how Laura Mae Martin helps Google's top execs work smarter.

Laura Mae Martin, Google's executive productivity adviser, works one-on-one with the company's top brass.

Image: Google

If productivity were a product at Google, then Laura Mae Martin would be its product manager.

She's Google's executive productivity adviser, a job she created following a successful 20% project about managing inboxes that she debuted while working in keyword sales. As the company's top expert on productivity, her remit seems simple enough: Make Googlers more efficient in their day-to-day work lives. But in practice, that means working directly with the top executives of a trillion-dollar company to make some of tech's most sought-after talent better at what they do.

Keep Reading Show less
Kevin McAllister

Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is an associate editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.

People

Nine tricks from Google’s productivity guru

These productivity tips were voted as some of the best by Google employees. Now they're yours.

Google Workspace, G Suite's successor, has plenty of integrations to take advantage of.

Image: Google

Each Friday, Google's top productivity expert, Laura Mae Martin, sends a note to more than half the company globally describing ways that different departments are using their own tools to be more efficient. Here's a list of the favorites, as upvoted by Googlers themselves.

Read more about how Martin coaches Google's top execs to work smarter.

Keep Reading Show less
Kevin McAllister

Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is an associate editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.

Latest Stories