In what has to be one of the most screwed up things I've read in a while, Buzzfeed reports that an executive at Uber told a crowd that included reporters that he wants to pay "a million dollars" to spy on reporters. It would be scary if this guy wasn't such a fucking moron.
I recommend reading the Buzzfeed piece in full because it is a treasure trove of the kind of fucked up megalomaniacal Silicon Valley thinking that people accuse companies like Uber of and they then flatly deny... before threatening to hire opposition researchers to then undermine the reporters who accuse them of being megalomaniacal monsters.
Excerpt one, scene setting:
Michael, who has been at Uber for more than a year as its senior vice president of business, floated the idea at a dinner 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.
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Why didn't we read this on Huffington Post and, also, what are Ed Norton's thoughts on this?
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.
I can just picture Kalanick saying "I'm just a modest guy who disrupted a whole industry and did something no one, not even Jesus Christ himself, could have done" while passing a plate of zucchini crustinis or whatever to Ed Nordon.
Excerpt three, about Emil Michael, the guy who said that Uber should spy on reporters and used to work at Klout:
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.
Yes, because a multi-billion dollar transportation company that employes thousands of people is of roughly the same level of public interest as the woman who runs PandoDaily who, in my experience, was about the least sympathetic person I could think of until a few minutes ago before I found out out abut this. Oh, that leads us to excerpt four:
At the dinner, Michael expressed outrage at Lacy’s column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. He said that he thought Lacy should be held “personally responsible” for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted.
Fuck Uber. Fuck Klout. Fuck this guy. And finally, you know you should be fired when a press person has to say this:
The spokeswoman, Nairi Hourdajian, said the company does not do “oppo research” of any sort on journalists, and has never considered doing it. She also said Uber does not consider Lacy’s personal life fair game, or believe that she is responsible for women being sexually assaulted.
Fire this guy. Fire him yesterday. Delete your Uber account if you're a journalist. They have access to your data. They know where you go. Do not trust them.
Oh, and one final excerpt:
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."
This guy also apparently serves on a board at the Pentagon. So, yeah. That's great news.
UPDATE: He apologized and said that he'd never do it, despite detailing to reporters how he'd do it:
Photo Credit: Getty Images, H/T to Josh Petri