Uber rejects thousands of rape and sexual assault complaints


Uber has hit back at claims that thousands of its customers have filed complaints about rape and sexual assaults. Uber addressed a Buzzfeed article that claimed to offer a “glimpse” into sexual assault complaints fielded by the company. The article was based on reports that included screenshots showing search results lodged with Uber’s internal customer complaints system. The term “sexual assault” shows 6,160 results, while the word “rape” returned 5,827 matching results. According to Uber, customer-service tickets including ‘rape’ often involve misspellings of ‘rate’ and customers claiming ‘you raped my wallet’.

The San Francisco-based company (Uber) also stated that between December 2012 and August 2015, it received five complaints alleging rape and 170 reported a “legitimate claim of sexual assault”. Uber also claims that the five rape allegations represents 0.0000009 percent of rides that took place during this period covered, while the “legitimate” sexual assault claims is equivalent to 1 in every 3.3 million trips.

The company offered three reasons why the results listed in the screenshots published are misleading

  • Riders routinely misspell “rate” as “rape”, or use the word “rape” in another context.
  • The word “rape” can appear within another word, particularly a name, such as Don Draper. After analyzing the data, we found more than 11,000 rider names and 17,500 rider emails with the letters “rape”.
  • The results also displayed tickets from passengers who got into cars not on the Uber platform, or who were discussing “unsubstantiated media reports of sexual assaults.”

In a rebuttal published on Medium, Uber stated that the search term “rape” is “highly misleading” because it brings up lots of tickets which are not related to that specific crime. Although BuzzFeed updated its story to include Uber’s rebuttal, it still questions Uber’s claim that only five allegations of rape were made through its customer-service system.

“The screenshots obtained by BuzzFeed News show nine complaint tickets with the subject line of ‘rape. The nine results in the screenshot do not appear to be the result of misspellings or driver or rider names or emails with a letter sequence of ‘rape’.”

Due to GPS tracking, route sharing and ratings by both drivers and passengers, Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are generally thought to be safe for passengers, but rape cases has been an issue, several Uber drivers have been convicted with this offense, in October 2015, an Uber driver was convicted of raping a passenger in Delhi the previous year. The same month, a former Uber driver was sentenced to serve 10 to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated rape, kidnapping and assault and battery. To tackle problems such as this, Uber screens all drivers and riders for criminal records, suspends them immediately if accusations are made against them and if necessary alerts law enforcement.

Uber an American multinational online taxi dispatch company headquartered in San Francisco, California, was founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009. Its Uber mobile app allows consumers with smartphones to submit a trip request which is then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars. In 2014 Uber was ranked by Klout as the 48th-most powerful company in America. By late-2015, Uber was estimated to be worth $62.5 billion.

BuzzFeed is a cross-platform, global network for news and entertainment, founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti and John S. Johnson III as a viral lab focusing on tracking viral content. It’s focus is on digital media and digital technology in order to provide “the most shareable breaking news, original reporting, entertainment, and video.”

The company has grown into a global media and technology company providing coverage on a variety of topics including politics, DIY, animals and business. It is headquartered in New York City.

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