Presentation High School

#DeleteUber: The intersection of technology and politics in Trump’s America

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Image via Buzzfyre

After President Donald Trump’s issuing of an executive order banning Muslim immigrants from the seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States — crowds of protesters flooded the streets in solidarity for those affected by the ban. For the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the act was an outrage. On Jan. 28, the organization addressed these concerns by declaring that there would be no pickups at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in opposition to Trump’s Muslim ban.

Yet Uber — the online transportation app recognized internationally for its SoLoMo (social, local, mobile) marketing strategy — decided to take a different angle to the situation. Instead of utilizing their social media presence to protest the ban, the company took a more profit-oriented approach, announcing that they were going to lower prices by eliminating surge pricing. Their statement on Twitter gave no indication that the app was aware of the controversy of the immigration ban, an action that only intensified the conflict present when Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick joined Trump’s business advisory council shortly after the election.

In response to Uber’s disregard of the matter, opponents of the Muslim ban immediately took to Twitter to protest the company. Dan O’Sullivan was the first proponent of the hashtag #DeleteUber, which quickly grew in audience as more and more individuals began to join the movement by retweeting, posting, and sharing their own thoughts on the situation. In less than a few days, the hashtag #DeleteUber became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter throughout the United States. Dan O’Sullivan’s string of replies to the original Uber announcement garnered over 7,000 retweets.

What started off as one individual’s reply to Uber’s post on Twitter became a nationwide boycott. Although protesters had already blockaded Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco shortly after Kalanick joined Trump’s council, activists are currently planning another widespread protest at headquarters. The movement has also gained the attention of Uber, with thousands of users deleting the app and sending messages to the organization. As a result, Kalanick issued a public statement saying that he would raise the issue at Trump’s upcoming advisory meeting, but that it was a part of the corporation’s ideals to engage peacefully with political disagreement.

However, that may not be enough. Lyft, Uber’s chief competitor, has taken the opportunity to display its support for protests of the Muslim ban. Shortly after the movement took hold on social media, Lyft provided a $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union, which directly battles violations of individual rights granted to American citizens. The co-founders of Lyft, Logan Green and John Zimmer, also expressed their beliefs on the immigration ban, stating, “Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values…we stand firmly against these actions.”

Despite the fact that Uber is making attempts to reverse the effect its message has had on its users, it looks like the damage has already been done. To date, over 200,000 customers have deleted their accounts.

It’s no secret that social media is an immensely powerful tool in today’s political climate. Yet, the #DeleteUber movement has shown just how much of an impact one individual can make towards political action. O’Sullivan’s reply to Uber’s post has effected its own sort of change within both the business and political realms, and has shown that technology and politics are very much correlated; utilizing one can affect the other. One simple tweet can start a revolution, and as individuals, it’s up to us to be catalysts for that change.

1 Comment

  • Reply Douglas Campbell February 24, 2017 at 11:16 am

    I would have expected that progressives would want as many people as they could possibly get on President Trumps economic advisory council — to add balance to the recommendations being given to the President. Instead, they do #DeleteUber, which seems artfully designed to prevent President Trump from hearing ANY progressive business voices (which, as a conservative, is OK by me, but perhaps stick-in-own-eye with respect to progressives). Your 200,000 deleted Uber accounts seems like a lot, but Uber had over 40,000,000 accounts at the point the deletions happened. Furthermore, the deletions were transitory (according to Mashable), happening mainly on 30 and 31 January, with installs/reinstalls of the Uber app on iphone creeping up thereafter; at the present time the slope (1st derivative) of Uber app downloads is indistinguishable from pre-#DeleteUber numbers thus proving the transitory nature of the action. But the real damage is this — Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the council. Now, perhaps that is a win, but Kalanick has been quite outspoken about his opposition to an outright ban on Muslims entering the United States, and has set up a $3M defense fund for any of his drivers who are targeted. He’s exactly the kind of voice anyone who favors free immigration would have wanted on the council and it’s a shame that he was driven off by his own allies.

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