IN October this year, Silicon Valley technology journalist Sarah Lacy deleted the Uber App on her smartphone and urged others to do the same. Less than two months later, as the rape by a cabbie booked through the San Francisco-based ride-share company sets off outrage in Delhi, Lacy tweeted saying she is “really sad to be this right” about Uber.
Lacy has taken on Uber on a number of occasions. “The real issue isn’t whether Uber is more or less dangerous than others, it is this culture of disrespecting women. I know that if I were attacked in an Uber cab, they won’t back me,” Lacy said in an interview to Newsline.
This January, PandoDaily, the news website founded by Lacy, ran an investigative story that exposed how an Uber driver accused of assault had a previous criminal record that had slipped through the background checks Uber claimed it did. “If Uber is having real issues on safety in a controlled market like the US, the idea that they can have a handful of people working in such a diverse and complex country as India, out of a hotel room with three employees, is preposterous,” says Lacy.
In the US, whenever there have been allegations of assaults by Uber drivers, the company’s response, says Lacy, has been to shift the blame to the passenger. “Talking to executives at the company, you could see a blame-the-passenger culture. If a complaint came up, they were quick to blame the victim — that she was drunk or was dressed provocatively. It’s that cliché thing, the classic victim-shaming,” the editor-in-chief said.
Lacy says her main criticism against Uber has been over its sexism, ethics and bro culture — Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had once reportedly remarked that he calls the company “boober” because of all the women who want to sleep with him as a result of the company’s success.
Then this October, there was a campaign in Lyon, France, that encouraged riders to get picked up by “hot female” drivers. “As a woman and a mother, I didn’t feel safe in their cab any more and after the Lyon ad, I deleted their App from my phone,” says Lacy.
Uber, says Lacy, responded to her criticism of them, saying that women were far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. “They said I should be held personally responsible for any woman who followed my lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted. And yet, they don’t want to be held accountable when someone gets raped in one of their own cars,” says Lacy, who is a “huge fan of ride-sharing”.
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