Earlier this week, MediaJustice partnered with the Athena coalition to disrupt another AWS summit – this time in New York City.  For years, MediaJustice has been leading campaigns to disrupt and abolish the use of high tech policing tools used to stalk, harass, and criminalize our communities.  And despite mounting concerns and public criticism, Amazon has just continued to double down on its tech partnerships – literally engineering the very technology that’s fueling state violence around the world. So while our movements are fighting for the right to live freely and safe from racist policing, we must also hold greedy and exploitative companies like Amazon accountable for choosing profits over people. 

For the next few months, thousands of people (specifically AWS customers/tech workers) will be traveling to attend these AWS summits, to essentially learn all about the power and amazing benefits of using Amazon’s technology. However, what’s not included in the program is their tech partnerships with the police and military, and how these partnerships put our communities at risk of further state violence.  

  • Despite the risk that police surveillance tools like facial recognition and license plate readers pose to Black people and people of color, Amazon continues to host these dangerous tools through Amazon Web Services. We also know Amazon is selling its surveillance tech to prisons in New York State. Their technology is being used to monitor prison phone calls, to essentially search for words like “Covid” or “lawyers” to spy on those who may be seeking help. 
  • Amazon Web Services is working with the Department of Homeland Security to dramatically expand the monitoring and tracking of migrants. The $6 billion dollar HART project, hosted on AWS, will aggregate iris scans, fingerprints, voice prints, DNA, and other personal information into a dystopian tracking system that could supercharge raids, detention, and deportation.   
  • In June of 2021, Amazon Web Services and Google signed a $1.2 billion contract with the Israeli government for a flagship project called “Project Nimbus,” to provide a cloud services “ecosystem” for the Israeli government. The project is designed to expand Israel’s artificial intelligence capabilities, including those used to monitor Palestinian activists, surveil the Gaza border, force Palestinians off their land, and operate Israel’s Iron Dome system. 
  • And it’s not just the police using Amazon’s surveillance tech, it’s our neighbors too.  Thousands of people are using Amazon Ring which gives police departments access to the video footage captured by its cameras. There are over 2,000 of these kinds of police partnerships. And just days before this latest disruption in NYC, we learned that Amazon has been lying about sharing this footage without the customer’s consent.

Amazon is not just complicit, but has a financial stake in the criminalization of communities of color.  Amazon’s cloud computing services, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has become integral to the function of the carceral state – across policing, prisons, and criminalized immigration. Therefore it is striking that none of these partnerships make it into the summit agenda.  The best explanation for why is that these summits are a PR tactic to whitewash Amazon’s reputation as one of the most powerful and influential military and police contractors in the world.

We are striving to build a movement where the technology we use and rely on, isn’t simultaneously being used to also supercharge violence and oppression globally.  AWS customers attending these summits have a critical choice to make. And thankfully many of the attendees agreed, showing their support by taking our materials and tweeting about our demands online. This is not the moment to be silent or passive bystanders, but rather an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our movements fighting for justice, liberation, and safety.

Check out the additional coverage from VICE here


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