Uber exec accused of controversial plan to silence critics

Uber exec suggests investigating journalists 02:28

Uber has built a multi-billion dollar ridesharing business by aggressively battling its competitors. Now it's being accused of considering that same take-no-prisoners approach to silencing its critics in the media.

One of the ride-sharing company's top executives is backtracking after apparently having a controversial plan to silence any journalist who criticized the company, CBS News' John Blackstone reports.

"We were one of the first publications to be concerned about some of the morally dubious things that Uber was doing," said Sarah Lacy, founder of technology website Pando Daily.

She recently wrote a sharply worded takedown of Uber accusing its management of sexism and misogyny.

"There was just a very strong pattern of this getting worse and worse and worse in the company," Lacy said.

The criticism appeared to be too much for Uber executive Emil Michael.

Buzzfeed reports that at a private dinner in New York last week, Michael outlined a plan to spend "a million dollars ... hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media ... they'd look into 'your personal lives, families' and give the media a taste of its own medicine."

Lacy was one of Michael's targets.

Calling for a boycott of Uber 05:24

"I was terrified, and after today I'm actually more terrified because there are no repercussions," Lacy said.

Michael is still with the company. He released a statement: "The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner ... do not reflect my actual views ... they were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them."

Uber also responded: "We have not, do not and will not investigate journalists."

Its CEO even tweeted an apology directly to Lacy. Late Tuesday, Uber said it's investigating its top New York executive, Josh Mohrer, for tracking an Uber-riding journalist without her knowledge, a violation of the company's privacy policy.


Mohrer earlier tweeted and then deleted a photo of his employees dancing to the Taylor Swift hit "Shake It Off" with the hashtag "HatersGonnaHate."

Uber has managed to shake off other bad publicity such as aggressive attempts to lure drivers away from competitor Lyft and lax screening of its drivers.

"I think that there's a line, though, and I think what Uber has done is they have crossed that line time and time and time again," New York Times technology columnist Nick Bilton said. "Right now, Uber is getting a lot of negative press, but that doesn't mean that people are going to stop using Uber. It just means that Uber looks bad."