Hootsuite, a Vancouver-based social media software company with over 1,000 employees worldwide, announced today that they will be cancelling a controversial contract with the U.S. government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (ICE).
We typically do not make public facing statements about specific customers or contracts. However, due to the attention around this particular case we can confirm that Hootsuite has decided not to do business with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.— Hootsuite (@hootsuite) September 24, 2020
For those who care about human rights, it's a good move. ICE has been accused of a litany of horrific behaviours, including but not limited to separating families, keeping children in cages, holding people in unsanitary conditions, medical neglect and performing forced hysterectomies. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared the government detention centres to concentration camps.
Private companies, of course, are legally permitted to work with whatever vile institutions they please, but the fact that Hootsuite is a certified B Corp (businesses that commit to putting ethical decisions ahead of profits) really made the whole partnership stink of hypocrisy. The company's public support of the Black Lives Matter movement and public commitment to diversity and equality also seem at odds with the decision to take on a contract.
Hootsuite denied that they even had a partnership with ICE in a comment to Business in Vancouver yesterday.
However, the website of the Department of Homeland Security confirms that they were paying Hootsuite over $500,000 for services.
Today, however, due to backlash inspired in part by employees' public outrage, Hootsuite tweeted that they had "decided not to do business" with the U.S. immigration office and called an all-hands meeting to discuss internally.
Comments to Hootsuite's announcements were, shall we say, not forgiving.
this statement is devoid of accountability and apology, and lacks any indication that you'll rule out working with oppressive organisations in the future. your employees, share holders and users deserve better.— N ▲ D I ▲ ✨ (@notsoquietgrrl) September 24, 2020
So, you would have if you had not been caught?— Jake D, black lives matter. (@JakeDockter) September 24, 2020
Is this the real statement?
Since you lied and were caught red handed doing so, I will do my damnedest to make sure every company I spend money at or work with will stay as far away from you as possible.— The Great Massey???? (@thegreatMassey) September 24, 2020
Working with concentration camps is shameful, lying about it is doubly so.
Hootsuite followed their announcement of the contract cancellation with a note from new CEO Tom Keiser.
"Although I typically would not make a public statement about our customers and our contracts, in this instance I feel it's important. Recently our company has had to go through the process of determining whether we would engage in a contract with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement."
"That sparked a great deal of internal conversation—and the formation of a committee to further that discussion and consider all points of view. Considering the various factors, including our belief in the power of communications and social engagement to break down barriers, and supported by the set of objective guidelines that emerged from that committee, we made the decision to proceed with signing a contract with ICE."
"Over the last 24 hours, there has been a broad emotional and passionate reaction from our people and this has spurred additional dialog. We have heard the lived experiences from our people and the hurt they are feeling. The decision has created a divided company, and this is not the kind of company I came to lead. I—and the rest of the management team—share the concerns our people have expressed. As a result, we have decided not to proceed with the deal with ICE."
At the time of this publication, Hootsuite's contract with ICE still appeared to be active according to the Homeland Security website, but if they have actually cancelled the contract, that presumably will change shortly.