News World Uber secretly lobbied governments, thwarted police: Report
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Uber secretly lobbied governments, thwarted police: Report

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Thousands of leaked files have revealed how far ride-share company Uber went in lobbying world political leaders to help boost its growth.

Dubbed The Uber Files, the leak shows how Uber received extensive help from politicians such as French President Emmanuel Macron and former EU commissioner Neelie Kroes to relax labour and taxi laws, and to avoid justice.

The documents include more than 124,000 records, 83,000 emails and 1000 other files involving conversations, spanning 2013 to 2017 and nearly 30 countries.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shared the files on Sunday, revealing what it called “an unprecedented look into the ways Uber defied taxi laws and up-ended workers’ rights”.

The consortium found that Uber used “stealth technology” to dampen government investigations, using lobbyists – including former aides to US president Barack Obama – to encourage authorities to drop investigations, rewrite labour and taxi laws, and relax background checks on drivers.

It also showed the company used a “kill switch” that cut access to its servers and blocked authorities from accessing computers during raids in at least six countries.

Citing former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick during a police raid in Amsterdam, the Uber Files reported, that he personally issued an order to “Please hit the kill switch ASAP … Access must be shut down in AMS (Amsterdam)”.

The consortium also stated Mr Kalanick saw violent protests of taxi drivers in 2015 on the streets of France as a way for the ride-sharing company to gain public support.

“Violence guarantee[s] success,'” Mr Kalanick texted colleagues. Mr Kalanick’s spokesman, Devon Spurgeon has since denied this claim.

The embattled chief executive was forced out by pressure from shareholders in June 2017.

The documents say during those violent protests, Mr Macron was on first-name terms with Uber’s controversial boss and told him he would reform French laws in the business’s favour.

They also show Ms Kroes secretly lobbied for the company before her term as the EU’s digital commissioner had ended, potentially breaching EU ethics rules.

Uber spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker acknowledged “mistakes” in the past. She said Mr Kalanick’s replacement, Dara Khosrowshahi, was “tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates” and has “installed the rigorous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company”.

“When we say Uber is a different company today, we mean it literally: 90 per cent of current Uber employees joined after Dara became [chief executive],” she said.