Members of the Github community are calling for Github to drop its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and are using an illustration of a cat holding a heart to do it.
The image is a take on Github’s mascot, Octocat, and shows a cartoon cat holding a heart with the words “Drop ICE” written over it. The illustration has begun appearing on the public profiles of Github users, with some using it as their avatar and others posting it in the readme section of their repositories.
Though a simple gesture, the illustration speaks to a growing movement within the open source community calling on Github to cancel its contract with the law enforcement agency.
The Microsoft-owned software development platform company continues to contract with ICE, despite CEO Nat Friedman sharing in a blog post last year that he strongly disagrees with the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“As a matter of principle, we believe the appropriate way to advocate for our values in a democracy is to use our corporate voice, and not to unplug technology services when government customers use them to do things to which we object,” Friedman shared in the blog post last October.
Friedman then pledged the company would donate $500,000 to nonprofit organizations working to support immigrant communities, noting this is more than any revenue Github receives from ICE.
In December, members of the open source community published an open letter on the platform calling on Github to go further and cancel its contract with ICE.
“At the core of the open source ethos is the idea of liberty. Open source is about inverting power structures and creating access and opportunities for everyone. We, the undersigned, cannot see how to reconcile our ethics with GitHub's continued support of ICE,” the letter stated.
The letter then went on to call on Github to cancel its contract with ICE and be more transparent about how the company conducts its business dealings. The letter has been signed by over 700 people.
Amanjeev Sethi is one of the people who recently shared the image calling for Github to “Drop ICE.” Sethi uses Github both for his work and personal projects.
“It is important that us builders of the tech, raise our voices when we see that powerful tech companies are supporting the agencies and organizations that perpetuate crimes and violence against humanity,” Sethi told Motherboard in an email. “Having lived in the U.S. up until very recently on a visa (for about 15 years), this issue is even more important for me.”
Stephen Belanger, who uses Github extensively and also shared the image, shared a similar sentiment.
“ICE has very anti-American ideals,” Belanger said. “America is built on immigrant populations inventing, creating new markets, and pushing the country forward.”
Siân Griffin has been heavily involved in open source for eight years and decided to use the image as a way to spread word about the issue and “subtly” remind people Github still contracts with ICE.
“While Github's enterprise offerings may seem fairly benign, I'm sure the folks at IBM who sold the Nazi party the punchcard technology used for the census thought the same thing,” Griffin said. “That technology ended up being used directly to aid in genocide.”
Github did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.