Uber’s Endless Scandals Question The Safety Of The Shared Economy

Jessica Renae Buxbaum
Can Uber really be trusted? The wildly popular ridesharing app, Uber, has completely revolutionized how we get from A to B.

Uber rape

The company has boosted our economy in providing many with part-time job opportunities and significantly reducing drunk-driving incidents.

The massive surge in public consumption, however, has unfortunately spiked a series of scandals that questions whether convenience trumps safety and moral principles, and if the shared economy model can truly be trusted.

Peter Thiel called Uber the “most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley” and rightfully so as the company is prone to sexual assault, violence, awful company-employee relationships and extensive sabotaging attempts of competitors

The company is run by misogyny

In October 2014, Uber uploaded (and then deleted) a blog post promoting an app in Lyon, France called “Avions de Chasse” boasting the “most beautiful thing on earth” aka a 20-minute ride with a  “hot chick” driver because “who said women don’t know how to drive?”

And as if sexualizing its female drivers wasn’t enough, Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanik, even coined the nickname “Boober” for the app citing all the female attention he has received in light of the company’s success. 

These two insistences prompted Pando Daily editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy to quit the app and write an extensive piece on her feminist reasoning. In a nutshell, Uber portrays itself as supporting women’s safety yet counters this initiative with countless sexual assault allegations by its drivers and viewing its female drivers as practically hookers.

In response to Lacy’s boycott-infused article, Uber executive, Emil Michael, speculated how the company could retaliate against journalists by

“outlin[ing] the notion of spending 'a million dollars' to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into 'your personal lives, your families,' and give the media a taste of its own medicine.”

That’s right launching a campaign against female journalists for voicing their opinion and stating facts is what Uber considers a great business plan. Freedom of press, much?

Uber's sexual assault epidemic

Google “Uber rape” and the list is exhaustive. The ridesharing service has numerous sexual assault allegations under their belt, including the latest incident in Philadelphia where a woman alleges her driver “held her arms down, ripped her pants, and raped her." The driver kept the woman in his car for two additional hours as he drove around.

Women passengers choose Uber as a deliberate way to avoid harassment and sexual assault on the street and in public transit, but Uber’s record is proving to be a useless resource.

Violence is rampant

The riskiness of Uber rides extends to all genders as any rider (or even pedestrian) could very well get hit in the head with a hammer, repeatedly stabbed or run over – all which has happened in the past year with Uber drivers.

Needless to say I don’t use Uber and don’t plan on downloading the app anytime soon. While the app’s cooperative model is appealing, especially from an activist standpoint where a communal approach is ideal in wiping away our individualistic culture, how these scandals continuously erupt questions the business practices of a shared economy where anyone can participate.  

For me, to completely reject these practices is not necessarily the right idea. Rather, the solution is twofold.

Ridesharing can powerfully change our society for the better, but we have to hold the companies in charge accountable for their practices. As a consumer, we must show what we want and allow the businesses to cave – not our morals. We can boycott a business that is inherently sexist and degrading to women while deceptively upholding women’s rights and safety.

And we need to effectively challenge how Uber screens its drivers and call for stricter background checks. Uber recently unveiled new safety programs in response to its bad publicity of late, but the improved background checks still don't have biometric or lie detector tests that Uber promised a year ago.

Ridesharing does not have to disappear, but how the business treats its customers and drivers does.

Read more: Can This Pink Radio Cab Prevent Rape In India?