India

“Shift blame to flawed Indian system”: How Uber reacted to 2014 rape case

When an Uber cab driver raped a 25-year-old passenger in Delhi in 2014, the company’s first response was to “shift blame to flawed Indian background checks”

When an Uber cab driver raped a 25-year-old passenger in Delhi in 2014, an incident that marked the ban of the cab aggregator in the national capital and the exit of the firm’s co-founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick, the company’s first response to the news was “shift blame to flawed Indian background checks.”

This was revealed in a report called ‘The Uber Files’, which has internal texts, emails, invoices, and other documents. The report, which has 124,000 internal emails, text messages, and documents from Uber, has been obtained by The Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and The Indian Express.

The report revealed that Nairi Hourdajian, at that time Uber’s communications head, sent an email to a colleague saying, “Remember that everything is not in your control and that sometimes we have problems because, well, we’re just f***ing illegal.”

Email exchanges mentioned in the report said the firm’s focus was on “damage control to prevent a reputational fallout in other global markets.”

Mark MacGann, then Uber’s Head of Public Policy for Europe and the Middle East, on December 8, 2014, said, “We’re in crisis talks right now, and the media is blazing…The Indian driver was indeed licensed, and the weakness/flaw appears to be in the local licensing scheme… the view in the US is that we can expect inquiries across our markets on the issue of background checks, in the light of what has happened in India,” the report revealed.

The report revealed that Uber lobbied politicians, including former aides to President Obama, flouted rules in its global push, and used ‘stealth technology’ to fend off government investigations.

For example, Uber used a ‘kill switch’ that cut access to Uber servers and blocked authorities from grabbing evidence during raids in at least six countries.

In a written statement, Uber spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker acknowledged mistakes in the past. She said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, hired in 2017, had been tasked with transforming every aspect of Uber’s operations. “When we say Uber is a different company today, we mean it literally: 90% of current Uber employees joined after Dara became CEO.”

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