Tech titans sound off about Donald Trump's call to ban transgender service members

(From left) Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg all voiced out their opinions on Trump's transgender military ban.
(From left) Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg all voiced out their opinions on Trump's transgender military ban.PHOTOS: AFP

WASHINGTON (THE WASHINGTON POST) - Technology chief executives are taking to Twitter to oppose something that United States President Donald Trump is banning.

This time, months after many sounded off about the White House's travel ban from six predominantly Muslim countries, a number of leading tech CEOs had their say on Mr Trump's tweets this morning, which said that the US military "will not accept or allow" transgender individuals to serve "in any capacity".

Many of the CEOs, several of whom have also been vocal on state-level laws or bills limiting gay rights, included a hashtag calling on the President to #LetThemServe, in opposition to Mr Trump's tweets, which, if they became policy, would be a reversal of an Obama administration decision to let transgender armed forces members serve openly.

First out of the gate on Twitter appeared to be Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who expressed his gratitude to transgender members who serve.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey wrote that "discrimination in any form is wrong for all of us", and Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote that "we are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back".

Both Mr Mark Zuckerberg and Ms Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's CEO and chief operating officer, respectively, expressed their support and gratitude, as did Airbnb's Brian Chesky and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, a frequently outspoken advocate on gay rights issues who led many CEOs to speak out on legislation in Indiana while Vice-President Mike Pence was governor, as well as in other states, such as North Carolina.

A few other company executives on corporate Twitter accounts also said they were against Mr Trump's ban or thanked transgender service members for their service.

Tumblr, which is owned by Yahoo, said it was "appalling" and provided a link to "how you can reach out, educate and fight back".

More CEOs, particularly in the technology industry, have been speaking out on social issues since Mr Trump was elected, on topics such as the travel ban and climate change.

Many corporate CEOs publicly urged Mr Trump to remain in the Paris climate agreement, and were vocal with their disappointment when he announced plans to exit it.

General Electric's Jeff Immelt said in June that more media leaders needed to tell their employees "I have your back" at a time when "criticism of news and media has gone too far".

The issue of gay rights is one that receives air time from CEOs again and again.

Researchers and corporate communications experts say that - in addition to the rise of social media giving CEOs an always-on microphone - this issue strikes at the heart of the internal policies of big companies.

Many have come a long way in extending benefits to their LGBT employees in recent years, and recognise that to not defend political issues related to them could make their corporate policies appear less credible.

In industries like technology where the war for talented employees is particularly tough, that is even more important.

Technology companies also tend to employ a greater share of millennials, which research says are particularly interested in hearing their CEOs' views on social issues and advocate for them in a public way.

A report released on Monday (July 24) by the global public relations firm Weber Shandwick and KRC Research found that nearly half of millennials said CEOs have a responsibility to speak up on social issues that are important to society, compared with just 28 per cent of Americans from older generations.