Uber Sought Researchers to Dig Up Dirt on Taxi Industry

Uber Technologies Inc., which is facing criticism after an executive suggested he was willing to pay to investigate reporters’ lives, has taken steps to hire researchers to “weaponize facts” against the taxi industry.

Uber’s rapid growth -- the mobile car-booking service is now in more than 220 cities across the globe -- has triggered fierce opposition from taxi and limousine groups.

In response, Uber has sought to hire people to refute any inaccurate information from competitors, the San Francisco-based startup said, confirming a report by online publication BuzzFeed earlier today that was based on an internal Uber document.

“Many organizations, corporations and campaigns have hired for a role of this nature and continue to do so,” Kristin Carvell, a spokeswoman for Uber, wrote in an e-mail.

Uber has been dealing with a growing controversy after Emil Michael, vice president for business, told BuzzFeed’s editor that the company would be willing to pay to dig up a reporter’s personal details to retaliate for negative coverage. Additionally, Uber is investigating another manager for accessing private data to track a journalist at BuzzFeed without her permission, a person with knowledge of the matter has said.

Uber co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick has compared the car-booking and ride-sharing market to a political campaign, where the main opponent is an established taxi industry, while the challengers are small upstarts such as Uber and Lyft Inc. Uber was founded in 2009.

Uber’s growth has “drawn the ire of the entrenched incumbents who consistently put out misinformation about Uber,” the company said in the document regarding opposition research, addressed to a “director of research and rapid response.”

“Your mission is to identify and weaponize the facts about those incumbents, the truth about Uber and to do it one step ahead of the rest,” the company said in the document.

The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association commissioned a documentary earlier this year that targeted ride-sharing providers titled, “Who’s Driving You?

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