Uber broke laws, duped police and secretly lobbied governments, leak reveals – The Guardian
A trove of confidential Uber files, reveals the company’s ethically questionable practices that fueled its transformation into one of Silicon Valley’s most famous exports.
Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder of Uber, dismissed concerns from other executives that sending Uber drivers to a protest in France put them at risk of violence. “Violence guarantees success,” he shot back.
The leak also shows that Emmanuel Macron secretly helped Uber in France, giving the company frequent and direct access to him and his staff. At the time Macron was serving as the commerce secretary of France. Now he is the president.
Uber executives privately expressed disdain for elected officials who were less receptive to the company’s business model. One executive told colleagues that the German chancellor was a “real comedian”.
An international consortium of investigative journalists shared leaked Uber files with media organizations around the world.
Uber admitted to “mistakes and missteps” but said it had been transformed under Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO after Kalanick was ousted, and asked the public to judge it by its current values.
The leaked documents reveal the methods Uber used to lay the foundations for its empire, covering 40 countries during a period when the company became a global behemoth.
Uber spent $90m on lobbying and public relations in 2016 to quell the fierce backlash against the company and win changes to taxi and labor laws. It met with Biden, Macron, the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and George Osborne, UK Secretary Of State, 2015-2016.
The documents indicate Uber was adept at finding unofficial routes to power, and paid prominent academics to produce research that supported its claims about the benefits of its economic model.
Uber’s lobbying efforts had mixed results, as it was blocked by entrenched taxi industries or opposed by leftwing politicians that were entrenched with taxi unions.
Uber sought to use opposition to fuel the narrative that its technology was disrupting antiquated transport systems, and urged governments to reform their laws. When faced with protests, Uber encouraged drivers to stage a counter-protest with mass civil disobedience.
Uber drivers were sent into potentially volatile protests, despite the risks, as part of a strategy of “weaponizing” drivers and exploiting violence against them to “keep the controversy burning”.
Uber’s spokesperson said Kalanick never suggested the company should take advantage of violence against drivers, and that the company would never condone such activity.
Uber drivers were the target of vicious assaults and murders by furious taxi drivers, and the cab-hailing app found itself battling entrenched and monopolized taxi fleets with cozy relationships with city authorities.
Police, transport officials and regulatory agencies cracked down on Uber across the world, raiding Uber offices and impounding drivers’ cars.
Uber developed sophisticated methods to thwart law enforcement, including a “kill switch” that was used at least 12 times during raids in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania.
Kalanick’s spokesperson said the kill switch protocols were common business practice and not designed to obstruct justice.
Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, who ran Uber’s operations in western Europe, said he regretted some of the tactics used to get regulatory reform for ridesharing in the early days.
Uber’s lobbyist turned to Macron for help when a police official threatened to ban one of Uber’s services in Marseille.
A dramatized version of the early events was even made into a mini-series on Showtime, called ‘Super Pimped: The Battle For Uber’.
For more on this story, please consider these sources:
- Uber broke laws, duped police and secretly lobbied governments, leak reveals The Guardian
- Uber Files: Massive leak reveals how top politicians secretly helped Uber BBC
- Uber leak: Company used covert tech to thwart European raids under Travis Kalanick The Washington Post
- What are the Uber files? A guide to cab-hailing firm’s ruthless expansion tactics The Guardian
- Uber leak: Company used violence against its drivers to win favor over taxis The Washington Post
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