Although tech giants like Google have been in the center of controversy surrounding sexism, this time, Microsoft and Amazon are involved in a somewhat different side of the tech industry. According to a report published recently by Newsweek, hundreds of emails sent from high ranking officials of these companies to trafficked sex workers in the past few years have been uncovered.
Among the emails, 67 were sent from Microsoft employee email accounts, in comparison to 63 from Amazon. Quite a few more emails were also sent via employee accounts from various tech companies such as T-Mobile, Oracle, Boeing, and other local Seattle firms. Apparently, initial communications occurred via workplace accounts because Seattle pimps require an employee email or badge to make sure that their is no police involvement. Importantly, the men who sent these emails have not been charged as of yet, and not identified by Newsweek either.
Most of the emails were obtained by the publication through a public records request to the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Some were collected by law enforcement authorities back in 2015, amid a sting operation involving several high-level Microsoft and Amazon directors. These emails document the purchase of services from trafficked sex workers, and even the tech industry's control over brothels. According to authorities, trafficked Asian women service hundreds of men each day in Seattle.
In a statement emailed to Newsweek, Microsoft has made clear its strict policy against any employees involved in such "unethical" actions, noting:
"Microsoft has a long history of cooperating with law enforcement and other agencies on combating sex trafficking and related topics, and we have employees who volunteer their time and money specifically to combat this issue as well. The personal conduct of a tiny fraction of our 125,000 employees does not in any way represent our culture. No organization is immune to the unfortunate situation when employees act unethically or illegally. When that happens, we look into the conduct and take appropriate action. Microsoft makes it clear to our employees they have a responsibility to act with integrity and conduct themselves in a legal and ethical manner at all times. If they don’t, they risk losing their jobs."
Amazon made a similar statement to the publication, highlighting its investigations of the matter and referring to the company's Owner's Manual, which states that, "It is against Amazon's policy for any employee or Contingent Worker to engage in any sex buying activities" in the workplace, or any work-related setting.
Alex Trouteaud, Director of Policy and Research at Demand Abolition, a national anti-trafficking organization, noted that the tech industry is a “culture that has readily embraced trafficking.” He also felt that the tech sector was surprisingly nonchalant, with regards to this issue. In fact, according to Polaris, another leading anti-human trafficking organization, more than 700 Asian brothels are based in silicon valley.
It will be interesting to see what more will be uncovered as in-house investigations are conducted into this matter by tech giants such as Microsoft, and whether or not the matter will eventually fall into the hands of law enforcement agencies.