US business leaders threaten students protesting for Gaza with denial of job opportunities

US business leaders threaten students protesting for Gaza with denial of job opportunities
US business leaders have said their companies won't hire students who take part in US campus protests for Gaza, threatening to identify them with AI technology
4 min read
06 May, 2024
Student protests began on 17 April at Columbia University and spread rapidly across other major US universities [Getty]

US business leaders have threatened pro-Palestinian students taking part in campus protests with denial of job opportunities and mortgages, warning that AI surveillance technology would be able to identify them.

Oil giant ExxonMobil's CEO Darren Woods said in an interview last week that he is "not interested" in hiring students who take part in US campus protests against Israel's war on Gaza.

"We wouldn't look to bring folks like that into our company and if that action or those protests reflect the values of the campuses where they're doing it, we wouldn't be interested in recruiting students from those campuses," Woods told CNBC on 26 April.

Student protests began on 17 April at Columbia University and spread rapidly across other major US universities.

Encampments were set up in at least 40 American university campuses to protest Israel's war on Gaza, where over 34,700 people - mostly women and children - have been killed in seven months of ferocious and indiscriminate bombardment.

The protests were met with violent raids by police, resulting in the arrest of almost 2,000 people, according to US media.

Threats to future careers

US students have been threatened with losing future opportunities, with Shark Tank issuing a chilling warning.

"These people are screwed," O'Leary said told a Fox News interview earlier this week, stressing that artificial intelligence (AI) can accurately identify every protester captured in video footage during campus demonstrations.

"Everything being shot now is 1080p or 4K, even the surveillance cameras. Every single image, even at night now, goes into an AI generator and will tell you who that individual is," he added.

"I have a lot of companies. I hire thousands of people. Within weeks, I'm gonna be able on, when we're doing your background check, I'm going to find this cause it's going to be in there on the dark web," O'Leary said, gesturing to two hypothetical stacks of resumes.

"Here's your resume with a picture of you burning a flag. See that one? That goes in this pile over here cause I can get the same person's talent in this pile that's not burning anything," he said.

"I don't care what university or what you're burning or whose side you're on. You'll never know why you didn't get a mortgage ... you'll never know I didn't get the job because we see you now, and all you need is to have your eyes exposed with a new 4K image, and for the rest of your life, you're in this pile."

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Pro-Israel lawyer threatens to 'bankrupt' students

Pro-Israeli American lawyer Alan Dershowitz issued his own threats, calling students "bigots, antisemites, and potentially violent terrorists".

"We will sue them and we will get their dorm rooms taken away. We will take their cars and their boomboxes and we'll bankrupt them," Dershowitz said in an interview with Newsmax.

"We will do whatever is necessary, under the law, in order to bring these lawsuits, bring them successfully," he said.

In recent days, police have forcibly dismantled several student sit-ins, including one at New York University at the request of its administrators.

Demonstrators barricaded inside Columbia University, the epicentre in New York of the student protests, complained of police brutality when officers cleared the faculty.

At the University of California, Los Angeles, hundreds of police emptied a camp, tearing down barriers and detaining more than 200 protesters.

Dozens of police in riot gear used chemical sprays to break up a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Virginia, student paper The Cavalier Daily reported.

Officers ripped away umbrellas some of the protesters wielded as shields, scuffled with a few, and tore down tents, according to a video posted by the newspaper.