Uber Exec Suggests Smear Campaign Against Female Journalist - Update

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Uber Exec Suggests Smear Campaign Against Female Journalist - Update

Why on Earth would you suggest such a plan with a journalist sitting in the room?

Update: The Uber saga continues today, as Ashton Kutcher threw himself into the mix, and Uber's access to everyone's travel logs was brought to light.

Kutcher is a TV star, a Lenovo product designer, and an investor in Uber. After word spread about Emil Michael's opposition research ideas, Kutcher took to Twitter to inject his opinion into the conversation. "What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?" asks Kutcher. He goes on to say that "Questioning the source needs to happen... Always!" The second point is crucial in reporting, absolutely, but Kutcher calling a journalist "shady" for being critical of a company (that criticism is outlined here) is a bit off the mark.

Kutcher has walked his comments back a bit in the following hours, saying "...I'm on the wrong side of this ultimately. I just wish journalists were held to the same standards as public figures." Another important observation -- when it's applicable.

But this isn't even the most embarrassing moment for Uber today, as BuzzFeed has yet another report on the multi-billion-dollar corporation. This time around, it's Uber's "God View" that is being taken to task, as executives with the ridesharing pioneer seemingly have unfettered access to your travel logs.

"Early this November, one of the reporters of this story, Johana Bhuiyan, arrived to Uber's New York headquarters in Long Island City for an interview with Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York. Stepping out of her vehicle - an Uber car - she found Mohrer waiting for her. 'There you are,' he said, holding his iPhone and gesturing at it. 'I was tracking you.'

Mohrer never asked for permission to track her."

"God View," is an internal tool at the disposal of Uber employees that allows them to track any Uber driver, as well as any Uber customer. The tool isn't supposed to be used unless a "legitimate business purpose," calls for it, like customer support, or troubleshooting.

User data privacy is typically a key element in today's data-driven online ecosystem, so to have your trips to work, home, or anywhere else immediately at the fingertips of an executive that doesn't need that information is unsettling, indeed.

Emil Michael 310x

Original Story: Despite its flaws, Uber is largely seen as a darling in the tech/startup world. You download the app, create an account, and within minutes you're using a car service that blows most traditional cab rides out of the water.

But the ridesharing company's success is now jeopardized by recent comments made by one of its top executives.

During a recent dinner in New York City, Uber SVP Emil Michael suggested that his company should start doing opposition research on journalists and bloggers who publicly criticize the company. According to BuzzFeed, who had an editor present at the dinner, Emil specifically targeted PandoDaily founder Sarah Lacy, who has accused Uber of being sexist in the past.

Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of "sexism and misogyny." She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service.

...

Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber's dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life.

Michael said he could see Uber spending one million dollars on such research, bringing in a small team of journalists to dig up information on anyone deemed too critical of the company.

While the dinner was supposed to be off the record, BuzzFeed EIC Ben Smith said that no one told his editor that this was the case. The dinner was attended by HuffPost editor Ariana Huffington, actor Edward Norton, and several Uber execs (including CEO Travis Kalanick).

Michael has since released a statement through Uber:

"The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner - borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for - do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company's views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them."

It's hard to tell if this will have any meaningful impact on Uber's business -- countless customers use Uber several times a week, some even every day as an alternative means to get to work. And for a company that values itself in excess of $17 billion? This might only be the smallest of potholes.

We've reached out to Uber to see if the company has any additional comments on the matter.

Is this the kind of news/move that would keep you from using Uber? Let us know down in the comments.

Source: BuzzFeed | ValleyWag
Image Credit: WSJ

Permalink

So they want to run a counter smear campaign against the journalist running a smear campaign against them? Okay, well nothing to see here then.

J Tyran:
So they want to run a counter smear campaign against the journalist running a smear campaign against them? Okay, well nothing to see here then.

How is criticizing someone's business practices at all equivalent to digging up and sharing information about someone's personal life?

This makes me want to use Uber even more.

And that right there should be taken as seriously as that guy's comments.

Is it particularly relevant that she is female? Is it made worse because she's female or something? Are we going to start prefacing everyone on the side we're friendly to by their sex or race or ethnicity to evoke some kind of desired emotion?

Needless specification of sex aside, pretty dirty of the company to hire detectives to find information so they can bully any who oppose them.

J Tyran:
So they want to run a counter smear campaign against the journalist running a smear campaign against them? Okay, well nothing to see here then.

What the article does not make clear is that use the data gathered by Uber. He wanted to go through their own data for personal information. Why would you use a company that will attempt to blackmail you if say something they don't like. Its not the who said what, it's the fundamental principle of data privacy.

Breaking: Uber to partner with Gamergate

*BADUM TISH*

But yeah from what I've read this company gets up to all sorts of shady stuff, really brazenly as well. I'm not surprised one of their executives would do something this stupid.

J Tyran:
So they want to run a counter smear campaign against the journalist running a smear campaign against them? Okay, well nothing to see here then.

Calling a company sexist isn't the same as a "smear campaign", particularly when the counter-campaign is specifically aimed at silencing someone just for expressing opinions unfavourable to a company.

I think we are all missing something here:

This happened in private and should be considered as such. You have no right to judge this person and anyone who does is harassing him and should feel bad, bad, bad. What this man does or says privately has nothing to do with what he does at work and if you think it does then you're guilty of harassing him.

The Escapist should never have run this story and should publish an apology letter asap.

Grace_Omega:
Breaking: Uber to partner with Gamergate

*BADUM TISH*

But yeah from what I've read this company gets up to all sorts of shady stuff, really brazenly as well. I'm not surprised one of their executives would do something this stupid.

J Tyran:
So they want to run a counter smear campaign against the journalist running a smear campaign against them? Okay, well nothing to see here then.

Calling a company sexist isn't the same as a "smear campaign", particularly when the counter-campaign is specifically aimed at silencing someone just for expressing opinions unfavourable to a company.

This more smacks of a blackmail campaign to be honest. Doing it to the people who oppose them is more likely to be a message to other aspiring journalists than necessarily the journalists who have already said bad things.

Not cool on their part.

What a dumb fuck. I hope he gets fired.

Yan007:
I think we are all missing something here:

This happened in private and should be considered as such. You have no right to judge this person and anyone who does is harassing him and should feel bad, bad, bad. What this man does or says privately has nothing to do with what he does at work and if you think it does then you're guilty of harassing him.

The Escapist should never have run this story and should publish an apology letter asap.

No, harassing isn't what you "think" about someone. At the very least it requires you doing something to them directly or indirectly.

You literally just judged us for how we think about what someone says in private. How hilariously duplicitous. You judge us for our thoughts but we shouldn't judge someone for what they say/do in public? Can you see the hypocrisy there?

Harassment is aggressive intimidation or pressure. You know, such as threatening someone or aggressively lashing out at them.

No one here has spoken to the man, so no harassment has been done. People do a lot of things in private that are bad and that they should be condemned for. The privacy of the action doesn't change the action.

Mistook the headline momentarily for Ubisoft. With all the bad press they're getting it was automatic!

But yeah, I saw this yesterday. Uber's executives seem like absolute tools. And stupid to boot, if he aired these ideas at a dinner with the editors of HuffPo and Buzzfeed. That's like plotting to overthrow the Queen of England and inviting the head of the British Monarchy Appreciation Society to talk about how you're going to do it.

Yan007:
The Escapist should never have run this story and should publish an apology letter asap.

You will be waiting a long time for that apology letter, I'm afraid.

It's not private if you are talking to a reporter (several reporters, in fact), and the reporter was never told that the conversation was off the record.

-Devin Connors

Yan007:
I think we are all missing something here:

This happened in private and should be considered as such. You have no right to judge this person and anyone who does is harassing him and should feel bad, bad, bad. What this man does or says privately has nothing to do with what he does at work and if you think it does then you're guilty of harassing him.

The Escapist should never have run this story and should publish an apology letter asap.

Just curious, did you have a similarly strong stance with the information that came out about Zoe Quinn?

Considering his response in one of the linked articles:

At the Waverly Inn dinner, it was suggested that a plan like the one Michael floated could become a problem for Uber.

Michael responded: "Nobody would know it was us."

I am not entirely sure about that. An executive of a company making a "joke" like this in private is kind of relevant when its regarding scouring the information they've gathered from their customers to blackmail someone into silence

The Almighty Aardvark:

Yan007:
I think we are all missing something here:

This happened in private and should be considered as such. You have no right to judge this person and anyone who does is harassing him and should feel bad, bad, bad. What this man does or says privately has nothing to do with what he does at work and if you think it does then you're guilty of harassing him.

The Escapist should never have run this story and should publish an apology letter asap.

Just curious, did you have a similarly strong stance with the information that came out about Zoe Quinn?

Au contraire, but I was convinced otherwise by many people here and now feel bad,bad,bad myself for judging She Who Shall Not Be Named for things she did, said and encouraged others to do.

Truthfully, Quinn (whose actual real name I can't say for some reason *cough*) did much more harm, but who cares because feels.

Lightknight:

Yan007:
I think we are all missing something here:

This happened in private and should be considered as such. You have no right to judge this person and anyone who does is harassing him and should feel bad, bad, bad. What this man does or says privately has nothing to do with what he does at work and if you think it does then you're guilty of harassing him.

The Escapist should never have run this story and should publish an apology letter asap.

No, harassing isn't what you "think" about someone. At the very least it requires you doing something to them directly or indirectly.

You literally just judged us for how we think about what someone says in private. How hilariously duplicitous. You judge us for our thoughts but we shouldn't judge someone for what they say/do in public? Can you see the hypocrisy there?

Harassment is aggressive intimidation or pressure. You know, such as threatening someone or aggressively lashing out at them.

No one here has spoken to the man, so no harassment has been done. People do a lot of things in private that are bad and that they should be condemned for. The privacy of the action doesn't change the action.

I was told my posting about Zoe Quinn WAS harassment. Now I'm so confused.

Looks like GGers are already on scene. So actually, Emil is all about ethics in auto journalism ?

Why specify the journalist's sex in the title? It's completely irrelevant unless you believe its integral to the story and, spoiler, it isn't.

The only reasons to include it would be to click-bait or that you believe her being female makes her a. more worthy of protection or b. it's more egregious that she's the victim.

First is bad journalism, a and b are sexist.

-

As for the story itself, big companies perform corporate blackmail! Holy balls I'm shocked and appalled, I never thought it'd be possible.

The Almighty Aardvark:

J Tyran:
So they want to run a counter smear campaign against the journalist running a smear campaign against them? Okay, well nothing to see here then.

How is criticizing someone's business practices at all equivalent to digging up and sharing information about someone's personal life?

There's criticizing.. and insulting. When you call someone sexist you are trying to paint them in a very negative light as opposed to just being critical. Hence, Smear Campaign.

Sexist, much like Racist, is one of those words thrown to put evoke emotional response and to cast a shadow on the target. It's especially insidious because it's one of those guilty until proven guilty things. Not saying sexism is not a thing but what it is is different from person, to person to person. o you can't say the accuser is wrong, and by twisted logic that means they are right.

Someone who is genuinely serious about offering real critique will actually avoid the use of such words,, but rather state the things that indicate such and the context in which they are taken.

lol I read it as Ubisoft too. Even they wouldnt be that dumb................................................at any rate fuck Uber no one cares life moves on.

He's just another in a LONG line of scum bags who use their money and power to screw anyone who gets in their way.

What I think is MORE distressing is how people are actually DEFENDING him.
I mean, what kind of slim would defend another person VIOLATING the rights of another person, over MONEY.

I feel really bad for any non-WSCM that's working in journalism or any kind of industry that goes for the truth.
.
.
.
O, and to the 'it's about journalism, actually' crowd?
Don't bother quoting me, you'll just be ignored, I've got better things do than reply to misogynists hiding under the guise of 'truth, justice, and the Straight-White-Christian-Male is a victim' way.

So like a Bond Villain...

"Gentlemen and Mr. Bond, here is my master plan. I propose to run a smear campaign against a known journalist of the female persuasion and... Mr. Bond, are you listen- Oh blast, he's escaped and he knows my secret plan. How could I not foresee this?"

Hah hah hah hah... He got caught monologuing.

Devin Connors:

Yan007:
The Escapist should never have run this story and should publish an apology letter asap.

You will be waiting a long time for that apology letter, I'm afraid.

It's not private if you are talking to a reporter (several reporters, in fact), and the reporter was never told that the conversation was off the record.

-Devin Connors

Not only that, but even if someone says something in private, if it becomes public then they can absolutely be judged by it. So privacy is only solace from judgment in that it is private. Not that private sentiments or actions are different in nature by the magic of privacy.

So even if a journalist hadn't been present, if one of the others at the table had made it public it would still be something he could be held accountable for.

Devin, is there a particular reason why you specified the sex of the journalist in the title of the article? Is it relevant that she is female? Otherwise it looks like you're using her gender to try to portray her as even more of a victim when the facts of the case already warrant that perfectly well enough on its own. People who try to control journalism by means of intimidation like this are really negative to society so "plus, he's doing it to a woman" just doesn't make that much sense and carries sexist undertones that reinforce certain gendered stereotypes of greater vulnerability that really only make sense in physical altercations. Perhaps I missed some greater context in which he is attacking her because she is female and hasn't done so to males as well?

BigTuk:

The Almighty Aardvark:

J Tyran:
So they want to run a counter smear campaign against the journalist running a smear campaign against them? Okay, well nothing to see here then.

How is criticizing someone's business practices at all equivalent to digging up and sharing information about someone's personal life?

There's criticizing.. and insulting. When you call someone sexist you are trying to paint them in a very negative light as opposed to just being critical. Hence, Smear Campaign.

Sexist, much like Racist, is one of those words thrown to put evoke emotional response and to cast a shadow on the target. It's especially insidious because it's one of those guilty until proven guilty things. Not saying sexism is not a thing but what it is is different from person, to person to person. o you can't say the accuser is wrong, and by twisted logic that means they are right.

Someone who is genuinely serious about offering real critique will actually avoid the use of such words,, but rather state the things that indicate such and the context in which they are taken.

There may actually be something to the sexism allegation, though. Granted, I trust BuzzFeed about as much as I believe someone who tells me the New World Order will be run by hyperintelligent chinchillas, but I did run into this by following the breadcrumbs. Forgive the pun in this case, but your mileage might vary.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/french-uber-bird-hunting-promotion-pairs-lyon-riders-with-a

That's one of the first links found in the Pando Daily article that Mr. Connors mentions in his report. I felt it necessary to bring that link into the conversation, because this was going to paint the company in a very negative light on its own. Finding out that an executive of a company that's already been seen as yet another chapter of Fanservice Inc. was planning a smear campaign, even out of jest, just makes them look worse.

Grace_Omega:
Breaking: Uber to partner with Gamergate

*BADUM TISH*

But yeah from what I've read this company gets up to all sorts of shady stuff, really brazenly as well. I'm not surprised one of their executives would do something this stupid.

For what it's worth, I'd never even heard of this company until I browsed through this forum a little while ago. If the antis want to put this company through a massive humiliation conga, I'll bring the popcorn.

oldtaku:
Looks like GGers are already on scene. So actually, Emil is all about ethics in auto journalism ?

The only thing I've said (not that you're talking about me) that could be considered "GG" is questioning why we referred to the journalist by sex. I considered that to be sexist. Like saying "Ted got in a fight with a black guy". Ok...? Why is that information pertinent? What's the purpose of expressing that unless the fight had something to do with that qualifier? Other than that, I'm not 100% sure what this topic has to do with GG. Maybe that a business is trying to bully journalists into being quiet due to the threat of history getting exposed. That is pertinent.

Yan007:

I was told my posting about Zoe Quinn WAS harassment. Now I'm so confused.

Did you post something directly to her? Were you speaking with her directly in an aggressive/antagonistic manner? Did you advocate her harassment by other individuals or release information about her that others could use to cause her harm? If not, then who were you harassing because it wasn't her?

Criticism is not harassment.

Two sides of the same ugly coin. The exec is dumb for thinking anything he said within ear shot won't get published. There is evidence of this happening everywhere. Watch what you say if you don't want it ending up in the public domain. The writer meanwhile is clearly blowing things out or proportion. Sure, she is entitled to delete Uber because of its clientele but to call it "Sexist and misogynistic" because they work with a call girl service? No. It's a company, and its needs to have a clientele. Its not "sexist and misogynistic" it's called business.

Wait, you mean a company that actively undermines its competition by making fake service request that waste fuel, time, and ties up resources that could be otherwise making money, and also attempts to hire away the competitions work force while their on the clock is also trying to undermine any journalist who says bad things about them?

Say it ain't so.

Uber is a terrible company. The people who run it are terrible people. This recent news should surprise no one.

No guys, you see, the Uber Exec was just trying to start a campaign about ethics in journalism. That personal secret he was going to expose probably proved collusion with the cultural Marxist academia.

No I don't have any proof, but come on we all know this is going on.

A 'female' journalist? Like a proper female type womany one with a vagina and everything?

This can't happen...

Seriously though. That makes the title look ridiculous, and it's not exactly relevant either. Were you worried people wouldn't click without it or something?

ZedOmega:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/french-uber-bird-hunting-promotion-pairs-lyon-riders-with-a

That's one of the first links found in the Pando Daily article that Mr. Connors mentions in his report. I felt it necessary to bring that link into the conversation, because this was going to paint the company in a very negative light on its own. Finding out that an executive of a company that's already been seen as yet another chapter of Fanservice Inc. was planning a smear campaign, even out of jest, just makes them look worse.

That was no more sexist than a tampon ad.

Grace_Omega:
Breaking: Uber to partner with Gamergate

*BADUM TISH*

But yeah from what I've read this company gets up to all sorts of shady stuff, really brazenly as well. I'm not surprised one of their executives would do something this stupid.

For what it's worth, I'd never even heard of this company until I browsed through this forum a little while ago. If the antis want to put this company through a massive humiliation conga, I'll bring the popcorn.[/quote]

Though yeah I never heard of them either...though I guess they must be doing pretty well to have a few million dollars o throw around. Guess sexism kinda pays off.

If we can't make judgments based on how people act in their personal or private lives, then we are not making judgments about them from a position that makes any sense. Are we really supposed to give people a pass when they behave like hypocrites or terrible people in their private lives? This goes for both the Uber executive and the reporter. If he want's to expose the journalist, I have no issue with that as long as the information is true. If they do manage to find evidence that this journalist is a terrible person, I see no reason not to expose it. By the same token, this executive is a moron if he actually expects his statements not to reach the public and be exposed by his intentions made public.

People need to quit trying to hide their actions behind flimsy excuses and learn to take responsibility for them. If you don't want to have your bad behavior exposed to the world, how about not engaging in those behaviors in the first place. Or at the very least accept responsibility for having committed them.

It has become very easy to accuse persons, companies or institutions of sexism or misogyny. The bar for such allegations is low, and it is not difficult to get a significant number of people to act upon or echo accusations. I can understand persons within such a company feeling a lot of frustration when such an accusation comes to light, especially when that company is very young and still finding its feet in new markets.

To suggest a Nixonesque "enemies list" smear campaign against someone making such accusations against your company in a room full of people, including reporters, who are unlikely to share the view that such a move is reasonable, is fucking stupid. To suggest actually carrying out such a campaign with any seriousness is despicable. This executive's actions have almost certainly done far more damage to his company than any blogger alone could have dreamed of.

I have a car, and friends who can usually take me to an airport, and tend to get rental cars when I'm out of town for a long period of time, and walk or take public trasit when I need to get around shorter distances or for shorter periods. I'm unlikely to use a service like Uber, one way or another.

...I think that about covers it?

I think it's possible for both of these people to suck for different reasons.

Very rare to see the cutthroat mentality leak to the surface.
*shrugs*
This shit happens all the time, sadly; it's just that most of it never reaches the press and public for what I hope are obvious reasons.

In any case, Emil Michael is an idiot.

[edited]

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