Uber Bans Racists Too

Caroline O'Donovan, Buzzfeed, August 14, 2017

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Uber permanently banned white supremacist James Allsup from its ride-hail platform on Saturday after an Uber driver in Washington, DC, kicked him and alt-right leader Tim Gionet, better known as Baked Alaska on Twitter, out of her car for allegedly making racist remarks. The decision makes Uber one of a handful of tech companies that denied service to groups or individuals associated with the violent white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

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“The events surrounding the white supremacist rally in the City of Charlottesville are deeply disturbing and tragic,” said Uber in a statement. “We stand against this hate, violence, and discrimination.”

After talking with Gionet and Allsup’s Uber driver on Saturday morning, Uber decided to permanently ban Allsup.

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In the aftermath of the violent protests, other tech companies have also pushed back when groups associated with the alt-right movement, including white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis, have used their services to promote hate speech and encourage violence. On Sunday, the internet domain company GoDaddy refused to continue hosting the domain for a white supremacist website called the Daily Stormer. The Stormer re-registered with Google, only to be banned once again within hours. Smaller digital platforms, including the email newsletter service MailChimp and nascent chat app Discord, followed suit. But while these companies waited until at least 24 hours after the rally took place, gig economy companies like Uber and Airbnb, which facilitate interactions between strangers in real life, have to make these decisions much faster.

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Before the rallies, Airbnb decided to ban known white supremacists from its site, prohibiting some — including the well-known neo-Nazi Richard Spencer — from booking a place to stay at Charlottesville via the platform.

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There are a number of scheduled rallies supporting the broader alt-right movement scheduled for the coming weeks, including March on Google events protesting the firing of James Damore to be held in nine cities, as well as neo-Nazi events in San Francisco and Berkeley. Chesky said in his statement that Airbnb will “continue to do all we can to enforce our community commitment.”

But not all tech companies have made statements as strong as Airbnb’s. While Facebook and Twitter have policed doxxing and hate speech on their platforms since Saturday, neither will change their current policies around safety and speech on the platform.

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