U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Friday it has not been formally notified of Hootsuite Inc.'s decision to get out of a contract to provide its social media monitoring tool to the controversial government agency.
Hootsuite chief executive officer Tom Keiser announced on Thursday the Vancouver-based company would not proceed with the three-year deal after an employee publicly denounced it on Twitter. In her tweets on Wednesday, Hootsuite product trainer Sam Anderson stated more than 100 employees had vocally opposed the contract internally because of ICE’s alleged aggressive anti-immigration measures, including locking children in cages, forcing female detainees to have hysterectomies and separating migrants from family members.
In an e-mailed statement on Friday afternoon, an ICE spokesman said the agency “has not received formal notification from the contract awardee” – a third-party vendor for Hootsuite named FCN Inc. – “that the company is unable to meet the contract requirements.” The spokesman also said “if true, it’s disappointing that they would not support our workforce."
The spokesman added ICE had intended to use Hootsuite software “to manage the agency’s social media accounts that help educate the public about the work done every day by our law enforcement officers.”
Mr. Keiser said in an e-mailed statement late Friday that “Hootsuite has decided not to do business with ICE and is advancing through the necessary steps to give it formal effect as swiftly as possible.”
Hootsuite, which provides software that helps corporations track what people say about them on social media, found itself dealing with its own social media nightmare after Ms. Anderson’s tweets about the deal, which were retweeted and liked tens of thousands of times. She stated the contract caused an internal uproar and was “seriously at odds with our publicly stated values,” including Hootsuite’s status as a certified B Corporation, a designation for businesses that have met high standards “of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
“This makes it abundantly clear that Hootsuite puts profits over people. … I am so disgusted that this is who I turned out to be working for,” Ms. Anderson tweeted on Wednesday.
The company initially stated it was not entering into a deal with ICE, although the U.S. government’s awards management website this week showed that it finalized a deal last week with FCN to sell a one-year Hootsuite license for US$509,000, with a two-year extension option.
Mr. Keiser tweeted on Thursday that Hootsuite had decided not to proceed with the signed contract after “a broad emotional and passionate reaction from our people. ... 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.”
Mr. Keiser said the initial decision to proceed despite employee objections was made “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 an internal committee struck to evaluate the deal.
The company made its about-face just two months after Hootsuite hired San Francisco-based Mr. Keiser, previously chief operating officer of Zendesk Inc., to succeed founder Ryan Holmes as CEO.
After the reversal, Ms. Anderson said she wouldn’t answer media inquiries, but tweeted: “This has been an overwhelming experience and I’m so thankful for the shared hurt and outrage. It’s not ideal, but if this is ultimately how we hold companies to account and make them do better then it’s good to know that we have a mechanism for it.”