IBM criticised for 'weak' response to Donald Trump's immigration crackdown

IBM said it has 'long believed in diversity, inclusion and tolerance.'YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

In the wake of US president Donald Trump's decision to crackdown on immigration from countries including Iraq and Syria, a slew of technology and social media companies issued statements in protest. IBM is the latest to do so, but some people are not impressed.

On 30 January, two days after most other firms spoke out against the controversial executive order, IBM said it had "long believed in diversity, inclusion and tolerance." The statement, which quickly circulated online, has been blasted by some as weak and lacking in detail.

The firm said: "As we shared with all IBMers this weekend, we have always sought to enable the balance between the responsible flow of people, ideas, commerce and information with the needs of security, everywhere in the world.

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"As IBMers, we have learned, through era after era, that the path forward – for innovation, for prosperity and for civil society – is the path of engagement and openness to the world. Our company will continue to work and advocate for this."

In response, Matthew Green, a cryptography expert at Johns Hopkins University, tweeted: "I've read technical manuals with more content than this IBM statement." A separate comment from a computer coder called Nicola Heald added: "So no specific response? Just vague 'diversity' stuff that you prove time and time again that you don't understand."

Other commentators quickly piled in. "That's about as weak a statement as could be asked for. Cowardly stance," one person said. Another added: "IBM's statement on Trump's immigration policy reads like they asked Watson to "feign human emotion'."

Ginni Rometty, IBM's chief executive, is one of over a dozen high-profile figures advising Trump on his so-called Strategic and Policy Forum. Others include Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of General Motors, Uber boss Travis Kalanick and tech pioneer Elon Musk.

It is believed that IBM has three staffers directly impacted by Trump's order.

Rival technology firms offered up more passionate, a lengthy response to what is now known around the world as the 'Muslim ban'. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said his company "would not exist without immigration" and it remains "open to everyone, no matter where they come from."

Rometty previously penned an open letter to Trump congratulating him for winning the presidency and to "offer ideas" about tax reform, internet of things (IoT) investment, how to keep jobs in America and using big data analytics to slash government waste.

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"Mr President-elect, IBM's roots are in the United States," the letter read. "We are investing, hiring, and continuing to reinvent our company for long-term competitiveness. At more than 50 major locations across the country, we hired more US employees last year than in the previous five years.

"We are opening new innovation centres and business units across the country. We are proud of the work we do here in the United States, just as we are proud of the work we do in more than 175 countries around the world."

Last year, Trump publicly accused IBM – also known as 'Big Blue' – of laying off 500 workers in Minneapolis and shifting jobs to India and other foreign countries. Numerous staffers caught up in layoffs have reported this transformation first-hand.

After Rometty's letter was published, at least one staffer resigned. Elizabeth Wood, a former content strategist wrote in her own message: "The president-elect has demonstrated contempt for immigrants, veterans, people with disabilities, Black, Latina, Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQ communities.

"These groups comprise a growing portion of the company you lead, Ms Rometty. They work every day for IBM's success and have been silenced by your words."

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