Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick
- Leaked documents reveal Uber’s co-founder dismissed concerns over drivers safety in violent protests against the ride-sharing app.
- It was part of a strategy to keep “controversy burning,” a former exec said, according to the Guardian.
- The exec said it was an effort to “weaponize drivers” to pressure government officials to shift policies.
Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick reportedly dismissed concerns from executives over violent threats against drivers during turbulent taxi protests, documents leaked to the Guardian reveal.
The documents suggest Kalanick urged drivers to participate in demonstrations against the ride-sharing app, and leveraged attacks against employees to pressure government officials to shift policies in favor of Uber.
One former senior Uber executive who worked with Kalanick during taxi riots in France in 2016 recalled feeling the former CEO was trying to strategically “weaponize drivers” and keep “the controversy burning,” the Guardian reported.
“If we have 50,000 riders they won’t and can’t do anything,” Kalanick said in a message to executives in 2016, according to the Guardian. “I think it’s worth it. Violence guarantee[s] success. And these guys must be resisted, no? Agreed that right place and time must be thought out.”
The finding is part of a global investigation based on 124,000 internal Uber documents leaked to the Guardian and shared with a consortium of media outlets.
Following Kalanick’s comments, European Uber drivers were pushed to sign letters to the French president and prime minister to save their jobs as demonstrations backed by the company were organized, the documents allege.
Uber went so far as to publish a manifesto in French media, according to the report.
Mark MacGann, Uber’s head of public policy for Europe, Middle East and Africa, voiced his concerns of violence against drivers in 2015 — a year prior to the Paris protests. At the time, nearly 100 drivers had been attacked and “dozens of cars destroyed.”
MacGann wrote a statement in response to the leak: “There is no excuse for how the company played with people’s lives. I am disgusted and ashamed that I was a party to the trivialization of such violence,” he wrote.
Other executives also appeared willing to let violence continue in an effort to pressure governments into letting Uber bypass certain regulations, according to the Guardian.
“We keep the violence narrative going for a few days, before we offer the solution,” one manager wrote.
In a statement shared with Insider, Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s svp of marketing and public affairs, said the company “will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our present values.”
“Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come,” Hazelbaker said in the statement.