On Saturday, Jan. 27, people gathered in airports around the country to protest President Donald J. Trump’s executive order on immigration. That night, the popular rideshare company Uber tweeted an announcement that surge prices were to be turned off at JFK airport in New York during a New York Taxi Workers Alliance strike on JFK. Many saw this as an attempt to undermine the strike and to capitalize on the immigrants’ crisis, leading to the movement #deleteuber on Twitter.
Even more people joined the boycott when it was discovered that Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick is serving on President Trump’s business advisory board. Over the course of one week, an estimated 200,000 people deleted their Uber accounts in protest of the company’s supposed values, including some Northwestern students.
“I deleted the Uber app because it felt like with every Uber I took, I was sponsoring their actions,” said freshman Siddhant Gupta, who has been using Uber for a few years and is opposed to the immigration ban.
Other students were not so convinced by the #deleteuber movement. Some, like freshman Noelle Torres, were concerned about the impact the movement would have on Uber drivers, many of whom do not support the executive order.
“It’s hard because I [want to] support the drivers because. . . a lot of them are local and I’ve had a great experience with them in the past, and that one CEO that doesn’t reflect every single driver,” said Torres, who has not yet switched to Lyft.
Since the #deleteuber movement first appeared on Twitter, new information has surfaced to make the Uber or Lyft decision even less clear for students. The morning after the hashtag was created, Lyft announced that they would donate $1 million to the ACLU over the course of four years, lending strength to #deleteuber’s argument for switching to Lyft, but it was discovered soon after that one of Lyft’s major investors is also an active Trump supporter even though the CEOs are not.
Despite this newest piece of information, the #deleteuber movement continued to gain momentum until the Lyft app officially surpassed Uber in the app store, an unprecedented event. Following this, Uber began heavy damage control, issuing a statement defending their actions as simply wanting to provide travelers a way to get to and from the airport, as well as promising to compensate and aid any drivers affected by the immigration ban.
These updates certainly make the choice between Uber and Lyft a little less clear, but for freshman Matt Casler, the company’s mediating actions have helped to keep him on Team Uber.
“I think the fact that they’re retrospectively trying to make up for that mistake speaks to the company’s values,” he said. “Personally, it’s not going to alter my usage habits because the fact that they are stepping up to the plate proves they recognize the fact that they made a mistake and they’re trying to rectify that.”
Despite Uber’s attempts to mediate the effects of their mistake on Saturday night, the massive support lent to #deleteuber resulted in real change; on Thursday, Feb. 2, Kalanick removed himself from President Trump’s advisory board.
Juan Valencia, an Uber driver in Evanston, finds the #deleteuber movement to be of merit for this reason.
“[These movements are] gonna help people like him step down and stop helping Donald Trump, which is a huge deal,” said Valencia, who also says he has not been personally affected by the #deleteuber movement.
At the same time, sophomore Lydia Kriseman feels that movements such as #deleteuber seem more like “slacktivism,” or low-commitment social justice actions via the internet, than real activism.
“Deleting an app takes a second, and it’s pretty simple,” said Kriseman, “but I think it’s a step, and this might be a person’s first foray into something political.”
Kriseman says that activism and passion for social change can’t stop at a hashtag, but must continue down the right path towards real change. That means reaching out beyond Twitter.
“What other things are you doing? Are you letting your representatives know that you don’t agree with this? You can retweet, but your representatives don’t follow you, your senators don’t follow you, they don’t see that,” said Kriseman. “So while you are giving good exposure to a lot of things and to friends and people that follow you that might not have known about certain things, I find it really important now to call. It’s so easy.”