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Microsoft CEO defends 'principled and democratic' HoloLens military contract

Microsoft CEO defends 'principled and democratic' HoloLens military contract

February 26, 2019 | By Chris Kerr

February 26, 2019 | By Chris Kerr
More: VR, Business/Marketing

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has defended the company's decision to sign a $480 million contract with the military that will allow the U.S. Army to use HoloLens mixed reality headsets during training and combat. 

A group called Microsoft Workers 4 Good recently posted an open letter to Nadella to voice their concern about the move, and suggested it was unethical to help "one country's government 'increase lethality' using tools we built."

They demanded that Microsoft cancel the contract, cease development of any and all weapons technology, draft a public-facing acceptable use policy clarifying that commitment, and appoint an independent external ethics review board with the power to enforce those new rules. 

Nadella, however, sees the situation differently, and in an interview with CNN Business explained the company wasn't going to stop democratically elected institutions from purchasing its tech. 

"We made a principled decision that we're not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy," he commented. "We were very transparent about that decision and we'll continue to have that dialogue [with employees]."

The chief exec reiterated he was "clear-eyed about the responsibility we have as a corporate citizen" with regards to the unintended (and potentially damaging) consequences of technological advancement, and claimed he wouldn't allow Microsoft to take "arbitrary action."

"It's not about taking arbitrary action by a single company, it's not about 50 people or 100 people or even 100,000 people in a company. It's really about being a responsible corporate citizen in a democracy," he added.

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