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Uber is openly harassing women, so why are we still using it?

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






Uber threatens to dox women reporters in yet another example of hostility toward women

Uber's success has been built largely on the backs of women who use the on-demand taxi service because they want to feel safer.

But the company's recent threat to dox female journalists critical of the company would suggest Uber is anything but a safe place for women.

Uber is one of the most lucrative private companies in Silicon Valley, valued at $18 billion. Perhaps that's why everyone has largely chosen to ignore its shady treatment of women, which culminated last week at a dinner party, where Uber senior VP of business Emil Michael said he thought it would be a great idea to spend $1 million dollars to dig up dirt on the personal lives of journalists who have been critical of Uber — namely, Sarah Lacy, editor-in-chief of PandoDaily, who has reported extensively about Uber's shoddy treatment of women.

"That team... they'd look into 'your personal lives, your families,' and give the media a taste of its own medicine," BuzzFeed reported Michael said.

To make those comments to that particular audience sounds much more like a threat than an off-the-cuff, wine-soaked anecdote. The BuzzFeed piece also revealed that the travel schedule of Johana Bhuiyan, one of their reporters, was examined by the general manager of Uber to "make points in the course of a discussion of Uber policies."

Both these reporters are women, and threatening to dig up dirt on their personal lives and dox them is unacceptable for anyone to do, much less a multibillion-dollar company trying to lure women to its taxi service by marketing the service as "safe." Yeah, safe as long as you don't piss off the wrong dude at Uber.

Michael and Uber are currently falling all over themselves to downplay and walk back the comments, and say the discussion was purely theoretical. But the admission that they're accessing reporter travel schedules and a recent Twitter tirade unleashed by one of Uber's highest-profile investors, Ashton Kutcher, would indicate the smear campaign against those who threaten Uber is real and well underway.

It's also worth noting, as the whip-smart Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel points out, Kutcher absolutely thinks the plural of journalist is "journalist," so we're probably not going to get too far in a First Amendment convo with the Kutch.

He's also on a roll mocking journalist [Kutcher plural sic] for not having adequate credentials. Yes, the guy from Dude, Where's My Car doesn't think journalist [Kutch sic] have adequate training to comment on being threatened with blackmail for doing their jobs.

Now Uber's lady troubles have caught the attention of Senator Al Franken, who wrote a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick demanding answers about the smear campaigns.

This isn't the first time Uber has acted like one big boneheaded frat house. Women who report harassment by Uber drivers are told to quit making trouble and that it's not Uber's problem. They've gone after women journalists and called them "trolls."

Uber doesn't dig chicks. Which is fine, and as long as they drop the blackmail and threats, that's totally their right. But why are we supporting this crap? Choose another service. Deal with hailing a cab. But let's not make this group any richer than it already is and reward its gross behavior.

What if you, as a run-of-the-mill customer, ran somehow afoul of someone at Uber? What would they be able to dig up about your personal life based on your ride history?

Are you still willing to give Uber your hard-earned lady dollars to feel "safe"?

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