Uber Files lift lid on secret political talks
When Emmanuel Macron served as the French minister of economy, industry and digital affairs, he had a close relationship with Uber, engaging in secret communications and meetings with the company’s representatives.
In 2015 (the year France’s interior ministry vowed to ban Uber app, UberPOP), Mr Macron assured the company that other French politicians would “keep the taxi[s] quiet” while he worked to “correct” laws to help Uber gain a foothold in the country.
In the same year, when one of Uber’s services looked to be banned in Marseille, Mr Macron texted an Uber lobbyist that he would “look at this personally” and to “stay calm”.
Violent protests used as PR tool
Messages included in the Uber Files indicate the company’s top executives knowingly put drivers at risk to gain sympathy points as global protests by taxi industries turned violent.
During Uber’s 2013 launch in India, a top company executive in Asia urged managers to focus on driving growth, even when “fires start to burn”.
“Know this is a normal part of Uber’s business,” he wrote.
“Embrace the chaos. It means you’re doing something meaningful.”
At this time, Mr Kalanick ordered the company’s French executives to retaliate by encouraging Uber drivers to stage a counter-protest with mass civil disobedience.
Despite concerns from his colleagues that this would put Uber drivers at risk of attacks from “extreme right thugs” who were “spoiling for a fight” after reports of attacks on almost 100 Uber drivers in the weeks leading to the protests, Mr Kalanick said it would be worth it.
“Violence guarantee[s] success,” he wrote.
Leaked emails suggest this strategy was also used in Italy, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
When Uber drivers were attacked with knuckle-dusters and a hammer in Amsterdam in 2015, they were encouraged to file police reports, which were shared with De Telegraaf, a major Dutch daily newspaper.
“We keep the violence narrative going for a few days, before we offer the solution,” an Uber manager wrote.
Mr Kalanick’s spokesperson said he “never suggested that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety” and any suggestion that he was involved in such activity would be “completely false”.
Uber flicked the ‘kill switch’
As Uber muscled its way into international markets previously monopolised by taxi fleets, Uber executives were aware of the illegality of its operations as it actively went against local regulations in countries including Turkey, South Africa, Spain, the Czech Republic, Sweden, France, Germany and Russia.
A senior executive wrote they’d “officially become pirates” as they actively defied regulations and faced regular raids by international authorities.
In 2014, then-Uber head of communications Nairi Hourdajian put the issue most bluntly in a message to a colleague, writing: “Sometimes we have problems because, well, we’re just [expletive] illegal.”
The Uber Files reveal Mr Kalanick personally directed aggressive tactics to evade local authorities as Uber expanded.
During a police raid of Uber’s Amsterdam office, he ordered staff to hit the “kill switch”; a tool that disconnected computers from company servers and prevented authorities from seizing company documents.
Leaked records show that company executives activated the kill switch during raids on Uber offices in at least five other countries.