A CURRENT senior executive at Uber suggested opposition research against unfriendly journalists, including going after their families:
A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.
The executive, Emil Michael, made the comments in a conversation he later said he believed was off the record. In a statement through Uber Monday evening, he said he regretted them and that they didn’t reflect his or the company’s views.
Michael, who has been at Uber for more than a year as its senior vice president of business, floated the idea at a dinner Friday at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn attended by an influential New York crowd including actor Ed Norton and publisher Arianna Huffington. The dinner was hosted by Ian Osborne, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and consultant to the company. At the dinner, Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick, boyish with tousled graying hair and a sweater, made the case that he has been miscast as an ideologue and as insensitive to driver and rider complaints, while in fact he has largely had his head down building a transformative company that has beat his own and others’ wildest expectations.
A BuzzFeed editor was invited to the dinner by the journalist Michael Wolff, who later said that he had failed to communicate that the gathering would be off the record; neither Kalanick, his communications director, nor any other Uber official suggested to BuzzFeed News that the event was off the record.
Over dinner, he outlined 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.
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. “I don’t know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn’t respect us or prioritize our safety,” she wrote.
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 at no point suggested that Uber has actually hired opposition researchers, or that it plans to. He cast it as something that would make sense, that the company would be justified in doing.
In a statement through an Uber spokeswoman, Michael said: “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.”
[Uber Spokesman Nairi] Hourdajian also said that Uber has clear policies against executives looking at journalists’ travel logs, a rich source of personal information in Uber’s possession.
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.”
He said, “Nobody would know that it was us.”
Yeah, no threat there.
Wanna trust that guy?
The Uber spokesman admits that they have logs of your personal travel that they could use against you, but they double pinky swear that they won’t, even though they could.
Particularly when this still employed at Uber senior executive said that he, Prove a particular and very specific claim,” about the personal life of Uber foe Sarah Lacy?
Gee, I wonder where he got that bit of information.
Wanna trust this company with your data about your comings and goings?
I think not.
A journalist is reporting on unflattering stories, and is further opining that the company and its senior executives are unethical in their business practices, and Uber wants to go after her family.
If Uber wanted to go through her professional behavior with a fine tooth comb, I would agree that it’s fair game, albeit a bit petty.
If she goes after your business ethics and competence, and you go after her business ethics competence.
You don;’t go after her family.
FWIW, Ms. Lacy has penned a blistering response, one which seems to imply that whatever Mr. Michael thinks he has, it’s not about her, but it’s about her family.
Do not give these motherf%$#ers your money.
Do not give these motherf%$#ers your personal information.
Do not give these motherf%$#ers your attention.
Delete the f%$#ing app from your phone.