Wednesday 21 February 2018

Tech giants hold summit on travel ban legal challenge

Eoghan McCabe, chief executive of Intercom
Eoghan McCabe, chief executive of Intercom

Dan Levine and Adrian Weckler

A group of large US technology companies has met to discuss filing an 'amicus brief' in support of a lawsuit challenging US President Donald Trump's order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

The meeting was called by GitHub, which makes software development tools, a spokesman said.

Amicus, or friend of the court, briefs are filed by parties which are not litigants in a case but want to offer arguments or information to the judge.

Google, Airbnb and Netflix were among the companies invited, a separate person familiar with the situation said.

The technology sector has become the clearest corporate opponent to the ban announced last week. The industry depends on talent from around the world, and companies have been considering the best way to muster their resources.

Efforts so far have included statements condemning the move and financial support for organisations backing immigrants, such as the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Trump administration says the rules will increase national safety and are well within its powers.

Michal Rosenn, general counsel for fundraising company Kickstarter, which will be involved in a filing, said the effort began on Monday.

"We're all very shaken. We're shaken to see our neighbours and our families and our friends targeted in this way," Rosenn said.

"All of us are trying to think about what we can do."

The discussions among the tech companies come after and Expedia filed declarations in court supporting a lawsuit filed by the Washington state attorney general. Amazon and Expedia said Trump's order adversely impacts their business.

A separate lawsuit challenging Trump's order as unconstitutional was filed on Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. If the tech companies decide to file an amicus brief as a group, it is unclear which case they would weigh in on.

Other companies invited included Adobe Systems, AdRoll, Automattic, Box, Cloudera, Cloudflare, Docusign, Dropbox, Etsy, Evernote Corp, Glu Mobile, Lithium, Medium, Mozilla, Pinterest, Reddit,, SpaceX, Stripe, Yelp, and Zynga, the source said.

A representative for internet communications company Twilio confirmed it will be involved in filing an amicus brief.

Cloudflare ceo Matthew Prince said the internet security company is willing to consider and sign an amicus brief.

Denelle Dixon, chief legal and business officer for Mozilla, said the immigration order was "misplaced and damaging, to Mozilla, to the technology industry and to the country."

The move comes after Irish-American software company Intercom intervened in the US immigration controversy by offering to pay the legal fees of Muslim tech workers thinking of moving to Dublin. Intercom'sceo, Eoghan McCabe, said that the firm is offering to pay legal fees of up to €250,000 for "at least" 50 Muslim tech workers if they consider Dublin as their next career destination.

"If you're in tech, and you're from one of the newly unfavoured countries, or even if you're not, but you're feeling persecuted for being Muslim, we'd like to help you consider Dublin as a place to live and work," he said.

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