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After making changes to its sexual harassment policies a few days ago, it seems like Microsoft is back in the news for sexism, this time though things aren’t looking to great for the tech giant. According to a recent report published by Newsweek, there are hundreds of emails sent from major tech firms in Seattle’s high tech alley to sex brothels and pimps over the past few years. Most of the emails were obtained during a 2015 sting operation, and Newsweek obtained numerous emails via a public records request to the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Of the emails obtained, 67 were sent from high-level Microsoft employee email accounts, 63 from Amazon employee accounts, and many others from companies like T-Mobile, Oracle, Boeing, and other local Seattle firms.
In case you’re wondering why the employees would use their employee accounts as opposed to personal accounts, Seattle pimps require an employee email or badge to verify that there is no police involvement. So far 18 employees have been arrested from Microsoft and Amazon, two of which have trials starting next year.
According to the city of Seattle, sex trafficking has grown hand in hand with the tech industry, with some men even spending around $50k a year on prostitutes. Alex Trouteaud, Director of Policy and Research at anti-trafficking organization Demand Abolition, stated that the tech industry “has readily embraced trafficking”, having a nonchalant attitude toward the issue.
In a statement to Newsweek, Microsoft stated:
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 issued a similar statement, saying that its Owner’s Manual clearly states that it forbids its employees from purchasing sex, and that if it believes the rules are broken, the company will investigate and take appropriate action up to and including termination and referring to law enforcement.
According to Polaris, another leading anti-human trafficking organization, more than 700 Asian brothels are based in Silicon Valley as well, making it likely that this isn’t an isolated activity.