On Monday, Buzzfeed broke a story suggesting that Uber’s senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, had mentioned at a very fancy dinner that Uber’s plans to counter any bad press against the company was to spend a “million dollars” to hire researchers to look into the personal lives of journalists and their families and give the media a taste of their own medicine.
In other words, he’d blackmail the press into providing only favorable coverage for the taxi service app, which is apparently worth $25 billion.
Comedy Central’s John Hodgman didn’t appreciate that tack. In fact, he deleted the app from his phone, quit the service in protest, and — in a post on his blog — asked that Emil Michael resign.
I’m sure Emil Michael is very talented at what he does and it would probably be hard and/or expensive for Uber to let him go.
But this is an executive who advocated for doxxing as corporate policy.
And if he did’t mean that they would publicly reveal the dirt his million dollar team of opposition researchers discovered, what ELSE would they do with that information? Use it against the journalist, I guess? I mean WHAT ELSE?
In particular, his public axe-grinding against Sarah Lacy was beyond unprofessional, and simply gross. And, if reported fairly, this moment from the Buzzfeed account itself implies a specific—if veiled—threat that’s an eyelash away from blackmail. And his defense—that he didn’t mean the words coming out of his mouth—is beyond cowardly.
He continued, adding that quitting is the only “honorable” thing to do:
I’m know he’s very sad and I know Uber is very sad. But to my mind, the only honorable (and SMART) move for himself, and the company he claims to be proud of is: resign, already. That he couldn’t, and Uber couldn’t take the hard next step and fire him, is baffling to me.
If this isn’t a fireable offense, are there any? Can Uber make ANY hard decisions? Or worse, would they only fire a person who had less wealth and prestige within the industry? What if one of their drivers made comments like that to a reporter? Or an intern?
I do not like this doxxing business. It’s an ugly, sh*tt trendy thing to do when people get mad at each other on the Internet, as our friend and occasional contributor Brock Wilbur found out recently when he got involved in the Gamergate dispute.
Meanwhile, whatever Emil Michael is worth, he can’t be worth more than the bad press the company is getting over this.