Who takes the nuns against Microsoft?

Update (December 4, 2021): Microsoft’s annual shareholders’ meeting, which is mentioned in this paragraph, took place subsequently after we published this story and the votes on proposals presented that have been counted. We have updated this story with the results.

Microsoft has survived brutal battles against Apple and Google, but the company now faces a more formidable enemy: the Sisters of St. Joseph of Fred.

The congregation leads a group of Microsoft investors who want to hold the company accountable for its technology. The campaign called on Microsoft shareholders to vote in favor of two proposals at an annual shareholders’ meeting on November 30:

  1. Ask Microsoft for it ensure that its lobbyists live up to its values ​​and policies on racial justice, human rights and privacy.
  2. Call Microsoft stop all sales of face recognition to state entities.

The sisters may not look like your stereotypical digital activists, but they are more tech savvy than you might expect. Oh, and at that meeting, 38% of Microsoft’s shareholders supported the first proposal, which called for the technology giant’s report on alignment between its lobbying activities and corporate policies.

Who are the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace?

The Roman Catholic Order was founded in 1884 in Nottingham, England by Margaret Anna Cusack, and has a history of promoting social justice as a path to peace. The congregation currently serves in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Haiti.

The sisters are also seasoned shareholder advocates. This year, they have focused on Microsoft’s lobbying efforts.

Sister Susan Francois has been the Order’s most prominent advocate.

That Assistant ward leader was once an election official in Portland, Oregon. In her blog, says Sister Susan, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks laid the groundwork for her “transition from bureaucrat to Gen-X nun.”

“As shareholders, as technology workers, as advocates for justice, we can and must hold these companies accountable,” she said in a campaign video. “New innovation should support human dignity and a just and just society, not magnify division and discrimination.”

Sister Susan is also a prolific user of Twitter. In 2018, she was interviewed by The New York Times after tweeting daily prayers to Donald Trump for more than 650 days.

The beef with Microsoft

When protests against racial justice swept across the United States last year, Microsoft promised to restrict sales of face recognition technology to police. However, the firm did not mention other controversial government clients, such as ICE and authoritarian regimes.

The company is also trying to shape the rules that govern it. Microsoft lobbied hard for face recognition laws passed in Washington last year – which is not surprising since the bill was sponsored by one of its own employees.

“Despite what’s public, Microsoft is spending its $ 9.5 million annual lobbying budget to fight a bill that would ban discriminatory face recognition,” Sister Susan said. “In fact, it is lobbying states to pass laws that will increase police use of dangerous surveillance technology.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace had previously asked Microsoft for a report on how its lobbying business complies with its stated principles, The Hill reported in June. They have now urged the company’s shareholders to hold the company accountable.

Good luck, sisters. Regardless of the vote, you have already drawn attention to Microsoft’s face recognition lobbying – and countered some stereotypes about nuns in the process.

HT: Protocol

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