Update re Saudi boycott

Hi A!

Just a quick update about the Saudi campaign - after 60,000 of us signed the petition and sent tweets, a prominent technologist from the group Data for Black Lives decided to boycott the event.

The CEO, Yeshimabeit Milner, was fully intending to speak on a panel at the summit, but decided to stand with our community and speak out against Saudi Arabia’s rights abuses instead.

Here’s an excerpt from her statement explaining why she's boycotting the event:

We refuse to sanitize or rebrand violence for the purpose of access, power, or profit. We cannot support AI convenings in a country that in 2017 became the first ever to grant legal personhood to a robot, before allowing human women to drive. When we say No More Data Weapons or no Fascist AI, and when we stand in solidarity with Google employees demanding No Tech for Apartheid, we mean it.

As young Black people from displaced and dispossessed communities, it may look foolish to refuse money and reject opportunities like this to scale our reach and work. But it was wisdom and diligence that got us here, and by wisdom and diligence, we will persist.

No platform is worth it if it means our integrity, dignity, and ability to... stand fully in our truth. As we have learned with inflation the value of money is fleeting – but the true human cost of losing sight of our core mission is incalculable.

You can read the full statement here — it gave me goosebumps.

I’ll be honest, this campaign was a long-shot from the start. Getting high-profile tech professionals to personally stand up to one of the most powerful governments in the world, kind of last minute, is not a small ask. But after I saw how many of us were passionate about this issue, it was clear that we were all feeling it was at least worth a shot.

And wow I’m so glad we went for it! One of the most popular media outlets in the Middle East wrote about the campaign so we can be sure Saudi authorities saw that there was international buzz about the boycott and their unjust jailing of Salma Al-Shehab.

Headline in Middle East Eye: Saudi Arabia: Tech activist pulls out of conference over rights concerns

The more media coverage like this we get, the more toxic the Saudi government becomes in the public eye, and the harder it will be for them to carry out these abuses.

I'm feeling so grateful and proud that our campaign showed Saudi authorities that their ongoing abuses will have consequences and that people across the world are watching. I’ll keep you posted if anything else happens!

Thanks again for your help!
Rewan and the team at SumOfUs

SumOfUs is a community of people from around the world committed to curbing the growing power of corporations. We want to buy from, work for and invest in companies that respect the environment, treat their workers well and respect democracy. And we’re not afraid to stand up to them when they don’t.

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