An exclusive report published by The Guardian on Sunday claims that Uber “secretly lobbied governments during its aggressive global expansion” while also actively campaigning against drivers.
More than 124,000 documents and internal communications were leaked to the publication, detailing a years-long pattern of “ethically questionable practices” and outright criminal behavior by the company’s top executives. That’s not even the beginning of it, though.
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With the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the paper “led a global investigation into the leaked Uber files” (ICIJ). “In the coming days, more than 180 journalists at 40 media outlets, including Le Monde, the Washington Post, and the BBC, will publish a series of investigative reports about the tech giant,” it said.
“The leak spans a five-year period when Uber was run by its co-founder Travis Kalanick, who tried to force the cab-hailing service into cities around the world, even if that meant breaching laws and taxi regulations,” The Guardian wrote in its introduction. “During the fierce global backlash, the data shows how Uber tried to shore up support by discreetly courting prime ministers, presidents, billionaires, oligarchs, and media barons.”
At its core, the leak suggests that “Uber was adept at finding unofficial routes to power, applying influence through friends or intermediaries, or seeking out encounters with politicians at which aides and officials were not present” and that “it enlisted the backing of powerful figures in places such as Russia, Italy, and Germany by offering them prized financial stakes in the startup and turning them into strategic investors.'”
Uber’s cozy and duplicitous relationships with world leaders were exposed, with some of the more shocking examples being the current president of France, Emmanuel Macron, “who secretly helped the company in France when he was economy minister, allowing Uber frequent and direct access to him and his staff;” the current chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, who “pushed back against Uber lobbyists and insisted on paying drivers a minimum wage.”
However, Uber tried to defend its position by bringing up antiquated smartphone regulations.
Another strategy Uber used to avoid responsibility was to avoid the law enforcement system.
“Uber developed sophisticated methods to thwart law enforcement. One was known internally at Uber as a ‘kill switch.’ When an Uber office was raided, executives at the company frantically sent out instructions to IT staff to cut off access to the company’s main data systems, preventing authorities from gathering evidence,” The Guardian wrote. “The leaked files suggest the technique, signed off by Uber’s lawyers, was deployed at least 12 times during raids in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary, and Romania.”
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