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Leaked document suggests Uber wanted to “weaponize” taxi research

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The latest development in UberGate comes, once again, from BuzzFeed, which got hold of an internal Uber document that outlines an investigative plan. In this case, however, the target is not journalists but the taxi industry.

The strongly worded sheet, which is part of a job application process for a “Director of Research and Rapid Response,” tells the reader to dig up facts on the taxi industry that can be “weaponized.” The applicant’s task is to develop a six-month research plan on Uber itself and on the opposition. Once hired, the candidate will work with the communications team to “disseminate” the information.

An Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed that its definition of “weaponize” meant “distilling sometimes dense or lengthy information (e.g. 75-page research reports, political contribution reports) into factual, bulleted points.” That’s the first time I’ve heard the word weaponized used in that way, and it gives the entire document a tone of attack. Merriam-Webster’s definition for weaponize has nothing to do with bullet points:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 4.09.08 PM

When proposing a plan to give journalists “a taste of their own medicine,” Uber VP Emil Michaels made it sound as if the company would stop at nothing, prying into a reporter’s family life and private affairs. Uber has since dismissed the remarks and denied any such plan is in the works.

In light of the recent scandal, the word “weaponize,” which occurs repeatedly in a document where the company is hiring a head researcher, is worrisome, but not damning. As BuzzFeed noted, opposition research is fairly common, especially in political circles.

The question for Uber is what constitutes the company’s oppo research. Some pointed out on Twitter that there’s a big difference between preparing for a taxi industry campaign against Uber and investigating personal details of a taxi leader’s life to use as blackmail. The word “weaponize” doesn’t help us distinguish between the two, but it, once again, gives a glimpse of Uber’s win-at-all-costs mindset.

6 Responses to “Leaked document suggests Uber wanted to “weaponize” taxi research”

  1. Samuel Roby

    Uber is the most misleading, fraudulent, unethical transportation business I even encountered in my decades in this industry.
    The fact that this deceiving, in many cases law-breaking, enterprise is even allowed to operate – is mind-boggling.
    Uber benefits no one but select few standing behind it – the owners of this so called “ride-sharing” charade.
    We could have a lengthy discussion. But I will sum it up briefly:
    – Tax-evasion – check
    – Refusal to comply with local regulatory codes – check
    – Refusal to pay for business permits required to operate – check
    – Lack of consistent and proper commercial insurance – check
    – Increasing number of criminal acts conducted by ride-sharing
    operators including sexual assaults – check
    As I said, it is mind-boggling that this deceiving and unethical corporation is even allowed to operate.

  2. I don’t see the UBERGATE here? They are hiring someone to research and find the flaws in the Taxi Industry that Uber helps fix. Is it wrong if McDonald s where to hire someone to research Burger King to allow McDonald’s to do the same.

  3. JenniferDawn

    I think this means that they want to use Uber cars to run over journos who give them bad press. That would solve their PR problems…no press = no negative new articles! :)