At what was supposedly an off-the-record dinner with various media and publishing elites, Emil Michael, an executive of the ride-ordering app Uber floated the idea of the start-up hiring a research team to the tune of one million dollars in order to dig up dirt on Sarah Lacy, a journalist who had been especially critical of the company.
In particular, Lacy wrote an article at Pando Daily on her decision to delete the app amid the misogynist culture of the start-up and the company’s apparent lack of concern for the safety of their female passengers.
Michael’s suggestion that the company could set out to smear a female journalist didn’t help the perception over Uber’s lack of concern for female customers. Amid the outcry over the suggestion to target journalists critical of the company, customers have begun deleting the app en masse, with some outlets even publishing step-by-step guides on how to fully remove account information.
Uber was left with a PR mess, and so far, attempts at damage control have been largely ineffective. Even Uber investor Ashton Kutcher made a considerable misstep when he tweeted support for finding ways to discredit the start-up’s critics.
In the meantime, amid threats to her safety, Lacy has hired a bodyguard to protect her and her family.
Despite what seems to be a clear disregard for the safety and boundaries of women, the company isn’t without its defenders. However, not all of the defenders seem to be forthcoming about their ties to the company and its founders.
Take for example, Lane Wood, who published a Medium essay titled “Here ego again” where he accused Lacy of “enjoying this newfound attention” and posted what appears to be a misleading shot of her smiling during a televised interview. In the midst of painting Lacy as a craven opportunist painting herself as a victim in order to advance her own profile, , Wood fails to mention his own ties to the company.
As Pando Daily writer Paul Carr points out, Wood was closely acquainted with the top brass at Uber for several years and even refers to Ryan Graves — the head of head of global operations for Uber — as a "bro" in multiple chummy Twitter exchanges. Wood was also working at Sherpa Ventures at the time the firm invested in Uber.
Wood eventually amended his essay with an update admitting that he’s acquainted with Uber executives, but the fact that he didn’t disclose that right off the bat seems suspect.
If anything, this does not bode well for what anyone within Uber or closely associated with the company will do to protect its interests. Given the fact that earlier this year, The New York Times reported that the company raised 1.2 billion dollars from investors and is being valued as high as 17 billion dollars, there’s obviously a lot of money at stake if Uber suffers irreparable damage to its reputation.
However, since the company has already demonstrated a considerable lack of ethics when it comes to protecting its interests, could anyone be surprised if more dubious practices came to light? (Pando Daily)