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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.