This is why I'm skeptical of Uber's promise to investigate these allegations. When I heard that they had retained Eric Holder to investigate, my knee-jerk reaction was petty and cynical: "Great, retain a Chicago politician so you know you'll get the answer you're paying for."
I was a little disappointed in myself at the time, but damn. With this company, I'm starting to think that impression might have been on the money.
When Peter Thiel says "single digit millionaires have no effective access to the legal system"  on the surface that sounds laughable and out-of-touch but I think there's a lot more truth to this than most people would like to admit.
You claim this is the truth.
On what do you base any of this, other than TV?
Since when has the truth been popular, or well received when it wasn't also what people wanted to hear?
You are forgetting that some past and present employees that could be directly implicated by Susan's evidence may also choose the smear campaign route to save their hide.
This could range from the women in HR* who might get thrown under the bus by Uber for aiding and abetting, to the men that perpetrated the actual harassment.
*Of course this scenario playing out is highly unlikely given Uber's history.
They've always ended up looking
What a fantastic opportunity to send those assholes on a wild goose chase. Even better if they can somehow feed Uber bullshit that they later end up hanging themselves with.
Doesn't matter. Court of law !== Court of public opinion.
In fact, courts sometimes suspiciously follow the public mood.
Seems there is some recent evidence, in sexual harassment matters:
--Single accuser, no-one believes you
--20 accusers, no one believes the accused
The floodgates don't open until #1 goes public, and more follow.
Maybe the victims won't get as much recompense as they deserve (because so much of the judgement will go to attorneys), but I would not be so sure that Uber will have them outgunned in court. At the very least, it could teach Uber a lesson by putting an expensive crater in their VC runway.
Every time I thought I learned something from a movie or tv show it was because they were portraying something I didn't know a lot about. I would be very slow to say any kind of entertainment like this is educational.
On the other hand they both seem to get along really well with the current US president.
Normally I don't care, but because I'm from Chicago and am officially very touchy about all the abuse the city catches, I'd like to correct the record as Eric Holder is from New York.
Do they choose their appointees on the basis of the virtue of the people appointed or on the basis of their political clout?
Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? You know, I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us ? Well, I don’t even trust you to do that."
He does have a credible image, but the announcement sort of co-opted that to make it seem like he might be somehow independent in his thinking. In reality, he's a lawyer being paid by Uber. As such, he isn't really inclined to find all the dirt...Depends on where said dirt is.
It's like there's a massive list of investors and shareholders who are all riding this "sure thing" to big riches. Which makes me wonder two things: 1.) is uber too big too fail? are there so many rich and powerful people invested that they will make uber succeed no matter or 2.) this thing could be the biggest investor flop in recent memory.
To reiterate, I wish Uber to change. I don't wish them to fail.
Employees yes, drivers not so much. There's plenty of competitors that would love to fill that hole.
> and it would burn a lot investors, thus negatively affecting the funding landscape for years to come.
Maybe letting investors know that company culture of how people are treated has real negative consequences would signal to them that they should pressure these companies to behave in an appropriate manner. Burning investors for ignoring the writing on the wall about Uber's behavior (there's been indications of problematic behavior of executives for years) is exactly what needs to happen.
maybe voters will learn this too?
i was about to say that these events could make for a great teaching moment, but these are lessons we've been given many many many chances to learn. i'll settle for us once again avoiding eating ourselves alive as a species, and hopefully we avoid eating some scapegoat subset of us alive while we're at it.
Silicon valley alums of a top tech company are not going to be hurting for jobs in the near future.
It sets the example that bullshit like this is not workable and will bring you down. There are no net downsides to uber falling.
Maybe in the US. Elsewhere (e.g. Toronto), it's Uber or taxi.
In fact there are many smaller startups that keep coming and going. Bikes, autos, cabs. In fact there was a bus startup too that failed just because it didn't have money to play against the system.
There are rumours of a huge business house (with pretty much endless supply of money and extremely easy access to the central Govt - in fact the PM on a personal level) entering the market.
They brought a very Wall Street-esque aggressively cheat your way into becoming too big to fail, at any cost attitude into software. They were chummy with top-dollar lobbyists to get around pesky small-town regulations and unions. Some of those entrenched interests were bad, but even in defeating them, they weren't precisely taking from the rich and giving to the poor either.
The grass is always greener, but they do not resemble software heroes like Carmack or Stallman or (idiosyncratic pick) Newmark at all. When it comes to anti-authoritarianism and civil disobedience, I think Snowden not Kalanick. Even if you want a Randian libertarian, Jimmy Wales over Travis Kalanick.
Uber's endgame is self-driving cars, which will put a lot more good people (Uber drivers and non-Uber drivers) out of a job. That's only feasible because of Uber's aggressive attitude to growth and crushing competition in long-term-unsustainable ways in the hope that the technology will materialize soon. If they change enough that this isn't their endgame or they don't pull it off in time, I don't know if they're financially viable.
I think that that goal and that pressure is part of why Uber is as rotten as it is (see how HR repeatedly doesn't want to fire abusive people who are allegedly high performers; even if the rest of their team would do better without them, Uber can't afford to figure that out).
Meanwhile, if they fail outright, it seems like basically all Uber drivers also drive for Lyft, and the engineering staff can get good jobs at lots of other places. It'll also be a good precedent for future companies not to try the strategy Uber has, and hopefully prevent more problems along these lines.
right. regardless of where you stand on his performance as attorney general, hiring eric holder is a political move. if uber actually cared about investigating this, they wouldn't have hired a politician.
AG is a Presidential appointment with Congressional confirmation. While those appointed are not necessarily politicians, it is most certainly a political position.
Direct Presidential appointees are absolutely political; cabinet members more than most.
> That term has a real meaning in the circles which matter (i.e., politics), and AG is not considered a political position.
It actually has a fairly vague and shifting meaning even within politics, but by virtually any of them the Attorney-General is very much a political position.
That must be why Trump fired Sally Yates then...
Really, it's about as political as it gets. Or did you think Jeff Sessions would so much as be looked at under a Democratic president?
Yes, exactly. The appointee is appointed to implement the administration's policies, which are political. During George W. Bush's administration, state Attorneys General were directed to pursue investigations of voter fraud. The eight who did not were fired in 2004 and replaced, which was very unusual.
Anything involving the law is political.
Any time two people interact, politics comes up.
To give another side of the Uber story, I've seen nothing but respect on my team of ~25 engineers. Only a few of us are women, but also only a few of us are the "white male" stereotype that you see in the press. Everyone I've talked to on my team is aware of and upset about the lack of female engineers in tech.
I saw Uber's CTO (Thuan Pham, a Vietnamese refugee) downstairs at Uber the day Susan Fowler posted her article. A woman who works at Uber came up to him, and asked him how he's doing. He said, "It's a tough time, but we'll get through it." She told him, "I'm sorry, I know how much you care", and gave him a hug.
Arianna Huffington is on Uber's board of directors. She's in charge of helping Uber employees "lead healthier lives". In response to Susan Fowler's article, Arianna has been holding personal discussions with employees about what we're going to do to stop this type of thing from ever happening again.
It's easy to stereotype a company, but at the end of the day you're talking about ~12,000 individuals. Many if not most of whom came from Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I'm hopeful that these decisions didn't come from the top. It really may have been just a couple of individuals who did messed up things, and should/will be fired.
It's a tricky problem, but ultimately you rely on the investigators caring more about their reputation than any one contract. If it gets out that firm X doesn't do objective reviews, then future companies in hot water won't hire them.
The real challenge here is that these investigators are not independent. Eric Holder has done prior work on behalf of Uber, which means he could reasonably be biased towards the company.
1. The public at large, who want to see standards of civic probity upheld? Or,
2. Future clients, who will want value for their money?
Delivering #2 requires writing up a designed narrative, in magisterial rhetoric. A narrative that hides all the dirt that isn't likely to come out anyway, and redirects culpability toward low-ranking dispensables, whether guilt or not.
For a big name like Holder, "folding up shop" would mean something like a beachfront retirement, in Malibu.
The independent directors on a company's board should hire the investigators, who then should report back to those directors.
Of course, in most startups, just like in many public companies, "independent" directors often aren't.
What I really want to see is the other 20 men on her team tell their bosses to cut that shit out.
We cannot rely on the abused to stand up for themselves; for every one who does there are thousands who cannot. It is on every one of us to report abhorrent behaviour, even if we think someone else has/will.
Change comes from those in power, from people who could very rationally not care, but who go out of their way to do the right thing. It isn't an economic decision, a business decision, or a political decision. It is a personal decision on the world one wants to live in.
We can do better. We must do better. Enough is enough.
It sounds like the abuse is pretty universal, from the article: "It was normal for guys to refer to other guys as fags when they didn't participate in private parties where sex and drugs were involved."
The 20 other men on her team were probably as concerned with keeping their job and not being abused. The big difference is that they can appear to fit in because they're men; women have a much more difficult job of it. But whenever everyone is keeping their head down, it's hard to notice that other people's issues.
The whole psychology of bullying comes into play and that is pretty complex. Yes, if everyone stood up against the bully they would win but how often does that happen in real life? Most people in this situation would likely just quit than put up with that environment so you're already left with those who can't or won't.
I'd like to think I wouldn't let that stuff happen around me but honestly I'm pretty unlikely to work in that environment in the first place. Where I do work, the culture is great and we are near 30-40% women in IT/Dev without even trying to hire for diversity.
Full disclosure, I work at Uber.
I have been staying out of this until now, but this point particularly grinds my gears.
If I heard anything remotely like what was discussed in this article you bet your ass I'm going to speak up. I know people do not speak of me, but watching my entire company be vilified is a bit difficult and hard to not take personally. I work with a lot of fantastic engineers that would not tolerate anything remotely like the behavior outlined in this article for a second. That's the problem with gigantic companies though, things often happen in dark corners that aren't apparent to the rest of the organization. People want to conflate specific incidents with the state of the entire company.
I had one opportunity to speak up when my female teammate was being discriminated against, and I took it. It wasn't even blatant either, the guy could easily defend himself and say it's not a sexism thing, but that's what it was. He's a massive jackass too, but you can't fire people on the spot for being a massive jackass without a lot of evidence to back it up. I did my part.
I cannot speak for anybody else, but I can tell you in my corner of the Uber world I take this shit very seriously, and so does everybody else I work with. The bullshit that is going on is not representative of my team, and it's very very hard to not take this personally.
The problem I have is that everybody wants to chime in with how awful Uber is like they know something I don't. Now I'll admit, there's a lot I don't know about working at Uber, as I only know my corner of the company. If I'm saying that what does that say about everybody else? Do these people think for a second that I would have stuck around and stuck it out if I saw this bullshit going on first hand?
I'm not going to be the one that stands up and defends leadership, or HR, or whomever else, they can speak for themselves just as I speak for myself.
Well, as it turns out, they weren't. A female engineer I knew in passing wound up writing an essay similar to this one describing her horrible treatment at the hands of one of her coworkers and HR. I was shocked, but I also knew her well enough to know that she wouldn't make up something like that. She shared that story as her goodbye email from the company.
Even now, I'm baffled and angry about the response the company made. I don't know why it was handled that way, and I don't know why her coworker acted so wretchedly. It boils my blood, and mixed in with that and the bewilderment is a certain sense of shame that I had misplaced my trust so badly.
Anyways, I guess all of that is just a long way of saying that I hear where you're coming from and hope your experience ends better than mine did.
Uber clearly does a lot of things very well, and although I posted in a different comment that perhaps Travis should go I think that the best outcome would be that the company can learn from these events and become better as a result.
What? No it's not. If it was like that on every team, you would basically be describing hell. "Better than absolute hell" is nothing to celebrate.
Well I think that it's useful in the midst of stories like this to realize that yes, most people are nice, kind, etc. Perhaps most Uber employees are like that. It should give hope to anyone who is working somewhere that should be better who is inclined simply to quit vs trying to make it better.
For people dealing directly with harassment it's a pointless distraction. Of course there are good people. Anyone who is dealing with harassment knows their are good people, because shitty people are harassing them. The difference is not an academic one for them, it's a material one.
For you, the scariest thing about this thread is apparently that someone might think everyone on earth is bad? No that can't be. Your priority is ensuring we all remember not all Uber employees are bad? You're worried about the reputations of non-harassing Uber employees?
Sorry, I'm struggling here. What's useful about reminding people amidst a harassment crisis that not everyone ja bad?
>He's a massive jackass too, but you can't fire people on the spot for being a massive jackass without a lot of evidence to back it up.
The implication of this is that you also have experience at Uber working with somebody who is unfireable despite being a "massive jackass" and engaging in sex discrimination against at least one female employee there, while you were around as a witness. It's good that you spoke up when he acted like that, I don't mean this as a personal attack on you or your coworkers specifically. But your anecdote here reads like one more story confirming issues with Uber's management/HR, even though you've intended it otherwise.
In every company there are 'Jackasses' (selfish egotist managers, politically malevolent colleagues etc.) who can never be fired for their specific ways of 'jackassery'. In this Uber narrative it was not anyway implied that this person was always sexist jackass.
I'm just being respectful of the anonymous Uber engineers who are speaking up. This would only lead to goodness for the existing female employees who are there in Uber and other companies.
Here you are perhaps doing the same (vocalizing on behalf of silent majority of good individual engineers at Uber) and the HN crowd is piling on to you; perhaps no different behavior than what they are trying to preach against.
Despite the fact I pretty clearly explained the problem, you still read into it the way you wanted the narrative to be read.
There are more considerations like whether you're willing to pay unemployment, or open yourself up to a lawsuit depending on the circumstances.
Oh yea thats right. As other have discussed, its because Uber is a juggernaut corp who will out-spend the legal competition anyway, so Uber doesn't care.
I appreciate your defense that "it isn't everyone" and "I am an Uber engineer and I stand up for women/gays/minorities", but I'm not sure we are getting at the larger picture here.
Its the movers and shakers at the top who need to start setting the right example instead of protecting their golf buddy who is making 6 figures. You have done your part, but this needs to go all they way up to the top.
You'd think they would at the very least care about the bad press in terms of quarterly/yearly earnings and the potential loss of customers/drivers because of the PR fallout.
I assumed from the phrase "massive jackass" in your post that cruel behavior from him was typical and dramatic enough to be a marked pattern. Most companies /are/ willing to fire people who repeatedly disrespect and are cruel to their coworkers. It's part of a bare baseline that you need to maintain to have a decent work environment for your employees. You and the woman he discriminated against makes at least two separate eye witness reports to an egregious offense (protected class discrimination), and I assumed from your description of him that his cruelty wasn't just exposed to you two.
I understand you're outraged at people for their discriminatory behavior but you need to recognize you don't know the facts.
Practicality aside, how stupid do you think I would have to be to start a massive witchhunt against somebody who has had allegations made against them by an anonymous person?
They weren't talking to you they were talking to the person who asked for the witch hunt.
Although somebody does know exactly who this is and never should have let it slide. Those of you with your head down, it's time to go over your boss's head and say something.
That's the same person I replied to. I think you took my comment to be in reply to another comment of the same depth.
In any case, it is good you took the opportunity to speak up. Even if the company does not change anything, knowing that it is not all colleagues who consider you to be less helps to put things into perspective. For me personally, when something similar happened, it mattered a lot. Not just felt better, but really made difference in how I seen my position, how I was confident afterwards and how I trusted colleagues in general.
I am trying to say that the action like yours may have positive impact on colleges even if you did not seen it.
If you really wouldn't stand for this sort of thing, then quit your job.
You know nothing about what I'm doing, who I am, or anything about working at Uber except the worst of the worst. Yet here you are acting condescending, because you've read a bunch of newspaper articles you're morally superior.
I tremendously resent comments like yours. I hope you consider how offensive your comments are.
Also you are very right it is hard to say for anyone if we would have done what you have, very easy to imagine ourselves doing the right thing but so much harder in the moment.
So, no, I'm not going to suggest you quit your job. Hell, I don't even think you condone the nasty behavior coming out of your employer. But, by working at Uber, you are very directly helping a company that is about as far away from "do no evil" as possible. You're directly contributing to making the world a worse place and that sucks. That's pretty offensive to me. You're aiding and abetting a company that absolutely feeds into the anti-tech narrative in the Bay Area and that is personal. And, yes, I resent that.
The crazy part about these stories is not that Uber has a few awful people, and it's not that there aren't people who will speak up and complain. The crazy part about these stories is that HR seems to be systematically supporting the few awful people and antagonizing the people who speak up and complain.
I don't work in Regular Tech (I'm in a teacher-education nonprofit), so I'm not as exposed to the SV bro culture. I'd like to think I'd speak up and fight for people who are marginalized in my workplace. I wonder if I actually would. It's so easy to be quiet, laugh it off, and go back to your daily, if it's not you.
If you want men to do something, just threaten their masculinity. It seems you know the infallible trick of emasculation.
We already know that managers at Uber use reviews to punish those on their team that are at all critical of them (especially for ethic issues). The "20 men on her team", even if they did want to say something, could reasonably expect to have their careers (and potentially a material amount of Uber stock vesting) impacted by standing up.
That's not to say that these men couldn't have or shouldn't have stood up, but they would've had to take some amount of risk to do so. In a company with better controls, these men would've felt comfortable criticizing this manager (and confident that they weren't endangering their careers or financial well-being by doing so).
Yes, there is risk to speaking out. It wouldn't be brave to do so if there were no risk. I do think it takes people who are already in a relative position of power to minorities and women in tech–which includes men at the same level—saying that this will not stand, in order for real change to come about.
The system of control doesn't have to be optimized for good. In a situation like this -- where managers seem to operate without fear of reporting or push back from underlings -- there likely is a lot of control in place already.
> Yes, there is risk to speaking out. It wouldn't be brave to do so if there were no risk.
The same could be said of the victims themselves and highlights the problem with this attitude: betting on bravery is long odds.
If workers are highly dependent on managers' approval -- not of their work, but of their opinions, character, manner -- then they will learn to keep their heads down and go along to get along. It's too late when something like this happens.
I'd really like a culture where this was viable - I'd love for nearly everything to be done in the public sphere, and even 'backstabbing' to be handled in the clear, but since Diffie–Hellman exists, it's not viable.
- Upton Sinclair
Uninstalling the app and simply choosing to use a competitor's services are another option, but sapping the entire organization of revenue seems like it would hurt drivers and developers at least as much as management, if not more so. Do you think this merits organized public protest? Is the average Uber user aware of the issues/incensed enough to actually take to the streets?
Obviously I'd like to see a change, but I'm struggling with how best to actually make this happen.
WRT Uber, their business model is shady to begin with, and that's not the only shady thing about them. Yet, the post is anonymous, and sincere though it sounds, nobody can be sure that the allegations are true. If cost of a lawsuit is the concern, I believe there are many organisations out there who'd help with the case.
Aside: great insights into the victimhood mentality of the free speech zealots.
(WRT same-sex marriage issue, I believe that civil unions should replace all kinds of marriage we've today and it should be left to the individuals to decide what their partnership(s) mean to them, wrt their philosophical/religious stances.)
- OKCupid blocking a certain browser to access their website means that who uses Firefox to use their service has to either agree the company and boycott Firefox themselves too or not use the service. That is, they forced those users to participate in the boycott.
- OKCupid is a company, so all of its actions are not only in the name of their executives, but also in the name of the users.
- What they did boiled down to a public shaming campaign, hurting, unjustly, not only a person who used their freedom to support a given political quest, but also a huge community around Firefox and Mozilla that had nothing to do with Eich's political tendencies. Free speech is not useful at all if we let the loudest to win.
What OKCupid did is probably defendable in front of law, but is completely unethical and exploitative. They tried to start a lynch to silence someone. It's no different to shaming someone for being homosexual or calling someone with the N word and excluding them. And it was an attempt to suppress freespeech, not an act thereof.
EDIT: Let me also say it like this: who decides which speech is ethical or honest enough to be protected as free speech? You don't have to agree with what OKC did, like them, or even want to do business with them ever again. But you can't deny they're exercising their free speech and free association rights.
Agreed. When I said their actions have nothing to do with free speech, I meant that they weren't confronting a free speech issue. They have the right to do what they did (IANAL, competition laws may apply, though I don't know much about American law).
> Let me also say it like this: who decides which speech is ethical or honest enough to be protected as free speech?
The only one who gets to moderate is the speaker themselves, and the listener. And my view is that OKCupid boggled here.
> You don't have to agree with what OKC did, like them, or even want to do business with them ever again. But you can't deny they're exercising their free speech and free association rights.
Ditto. But I also think that the companies should stay neutral, especially those who serve registered users, for they represent them in that using their service continuously may (and do) cause people to get labeled with the company's tendencies.
Please don't create accounts to break HN's guidelines with.
Thanks as always for the excellent moderation.
 despite gay and lesbian developers coming out and saying that Eich's personal opinions on the issue didn't translate to company culture and they felt a positive atmosphere working there.
When a company is too big to fail it means that if it fails there's a systemic risk for an entire economy. Banks (and it's mostly banks), which are too big to fail are so interewoven with other banks, multinational companies and the economy as a whole that a failure can bring other institutions to the brink of exctinction and by extension wreck havoc on the entire economy.
Thousands of people out of a job does not mean too big to fail. No more being able to hail an Uber may be inconvenient, but it's no systemic risk to the economy.
Look at Enron. They had north of 20'000 employees when they imploded. And they where in a far more critical sector of the economy than Uber can ever dream to be. While it was brutal for the employees (who partially lost their life savings) and while I think there should be a special place in hell for the responsible executives Enron's demise had hardly any effects on the economy as a whole.
I'm not jumping on you personally. It's just that this too-big-to-fail nonsense in combination with Uber is thrown around an awful lot recently.
And it's utter bullshit.
There is no way to change a company's internal culture from outside. The only thing you can do is punish it.
For a lot of reasons participating in lawsuits is challenging for the victims, and I am in no way criticizing any individual for not going through all of that. I just think that really making an impact is going to require more than a few hundred app deletions and some bad PR.
Lois E. Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co.
Jock v. Sterling Jewelers Inc.
Shervin Pishevar, John Gurley, David Bonderman, David Drummond, Arianna Huffington, Garrett Camp, Ryan Graves
some of these people have reputations that are worth more than their stake in uber. the desire to uphold their reputations may be enough to get them to truly act on this matter.
Drivers can easily move to Lyft or other competitors (at least in markets where Lyft is active). In fact, I would venture that most drivers already drive for both Lyft and Uber.
Developers can (and should) look for jobs at other companies.
Frankly I think Uber has long passed the point where I expect to start hearing about leaked recordings and cellphone videos of this kind of thing instead.
> The picture many current and former employees paint stands in contrast to the blustering controversies prompted by Trump’s comments since he hit the campaign trail. .... Those who have worked for Trump say looks aren’t everything. He is more interested in hiring smart people, regardless of gender, they say, and that has led Trump for decades to rely on strong, assertive women both as gatekeepers and as advisers. Several of Trump’s female employees said he fostered a positive work environment.
Finish the sentence please? Are you suggesting that one cancels the other out? Or that maybe he's just a great guy after all and just the victim of smear campaigns?
You're being surprisingly lenient in your assessment here. I'd argue they need to tell their bosses to fuck off and find another job.
You're asking people to stand up for what's right when it may cost them millions of dollars of incentives and the loss of years of their life in career investment. That doesn't make it right to look the other way when these kind of abuses occur, but is it any wonder that people don't speak up when the incentives are lined up so strongly against doing so?
Perhaps evil triumphs if great men do nothing?
Agreed 100%, but maaaan I have seen it where you would defend someone just so they can turn against you because of the same fear that originally prevented them from speaking out loud. Then they make peace with the abuser and now you are the one left holding the burning candle. It is a very tricky situation.
These types of posts are worrying to me. Why could this post not have been crafted by someone at Lyft? Or one of Uber's many other detractors? Given the PR nightmare that Uber is in why not pile on while the public seems primed for that type of information and stretch out the negative news cycle?
Just thought I'd throw out a word of caution: we know literally nothing about the credibility of this person.
Based on the article, she is:
1) A woman in her late 20s
2) who used to work at Uber in Engineering working on database and networking scalability
3) went to a top private college
4) has a Masters in Information Systems
5) previous to Uber worked as a Data Analyst in a tech company in the Midwest and left when it was acquired by a Chinese firm
6) is 5 foot 7 Caucasian with dark hair
7) never wears high heels
I sympathize greatly with Ms. Fowler not least because she put her reputation out there and claimed to have documentation of the specific offenses, which a decently respectable journalism outfit like the NYTimes could fact-check. Fowler's story could be exaggerated, but I have reasonable doubt that it's true, or true enough to merit scorn toward Uber.
As inexcusable as this "Amy"'s story is if true, we have to keep our heads and recognize when we have a falsifiability problem on our hands with the current facts.
The more serious/terrible the accusation, the more likely it seems to me that people will just take it on face value.
You may feel otherwise, and I cannot and will not attempt to persuade you otherwise. But as I said before, I believe Ms. Fowler at this point, and take issue with Amy's claim on falsifiability grounds. "We" are under no obligation to take any particular person seriously. There are strong labor laws against the transgressions claimed, and if there are problems with enforcement or efficiency, I am all for examining our procedures, but I won't sacrifice the bedrock of fair and individualized consideration of the particular case within the storm of the prevailing dysfunction.
Of course the criminal justice system must abide by the principles of due process. Simultaneously, if someone anonymously expresses great suffering, we are of course under an ethical obligation to take them seriously, offer them our compassion, and take action based on what we can substantiate.
Amy's specific experiences may or may not be verifiable. I believe you are missing the point though. This isn't about Amy herself. If it were, she would have come out publicly, like Susan has. I suspect the reason Amy posted her story anonymously is because it is about the treatment women in general receive at Uber. That's what makes her story credible: we have heard from multiple sources so far that the atmosphere at Uber is extremely hostile to women.
Here's an example why anonymity is important: law enforcement agencies receive anonymous tips all the time. One way they decide whether to follow up on a tip is by looking at surrounding factors. For instance, if multiple anonymous tips within a short period of time suggest that Bob may be involved in child trafficking, that is in most cases sufficient to earn Bob a police raid.
Same thing with Amy's story. By itself, it is full of extraordinary claims. In light of everything we have learned about Uber's company culture though, the claims are both ordinary and credible.
Is there a chance that it was written by a rival company's astroturfers? Sure. Just like how Bob may actually have been a target of swatting. But law enforcement agencies still have an obligation to investigate the anonymous tips against Bob, just like we as the public have an obligation to offer belief or compassion to stories like Amy's.
- "Amy" might not think she's lying at all, but a combination of misunderstandings and POV-blindness can quickly turn an "awful" story around to a banal situation
- "Amy" isn't necessarily looking to "reinforce the narrative" - it is certainly possible that they just want empathy or attention(which is practically guaranteed, see this thread). You could parallel this with the hoax hate crimes that were reported once Trump was in office - they would all hurt the otherwise legitimate point that bigotry is on the rise, yet the people still did it, quite often claiming that they were going through a rough patch and wanted some sympathy and attention.
- Even if "Amy" was lying, they may be relying on the impossibility of Uber to defend themselves. If they aggressively pursue the claims, they will receive a ton of backlash for harassing an alleged survivor.
> I just don't see anyone with any brains trying to create a false narrative to smear Uber.
The case doesn't have to be a "false narrative" - boosting a shitty situation beyond its actual levels is certainly a bonus to any Uber competitor, or anyone who dislikes Uber. It may absolutely be the case that Uber has a systemic problem; or alternatively, they have had an unfortunate clump of scandals, boosted by their unpopular business practices making it easy to believe that Uber really are monsters. At that point, it's easy to pile on any accusation, people will believe it, and it hurts Uber.
I was careful not speak to "belief", which is unfortunately ambiguous; one could interpret "belief" of this testimonial as supporting millions in damages being awarded to the author right now on the basis of nothing else, which I hopefully have been clear about not supporting.
It surprises me that you have no compassion for an anonymous grievance, though, especially one that is (at least currently) asking for nothing else. Speaking for myself, at least, even (or especially) though there are usually two sides to every story, I pride myself on usually being able to have compassion for both sides.
Compassion for the suffering of the unknown is one thing. To make damaging public accusations behind the veil of the unknown is something else entirely.
We can extend our hearts and offer our support to the anonymous authors of these stories, seriously investigate the questions they raise, and prosecute to our fullest abilities all wrongdoings substantiated by credible reports (e.g. Susan Fowler's blogpost), while simultaneously being careful to restrict any punishment meted out to be only based on credible evidence.
"Believe victims" means offer support instead of minimizing ("I'm sure he didn't mean it") or making counteraccusations ("what were you wearing?"). It doesn't mean "automatically, immediately punish anyone accused of anything without due process".
Maybe she aggregated attributes from multiple women at Uber and created this new person which cannot be specifically indentified. I see this as a valid strategy to conceal one's identity.
People deserve the benefit of the doubt and courts are very strict on this. Companies that let such an issue fester for such a long time without convincing remediatory action probably don't deserve it in the court of public opinion.
Nobody is. She could be lying. She could even be providing the demographic information of a coworker who had none of these experiences. She might be a space alien for all we know.
So you just have to weigh the evidence and get comfortable with uncertainty. Is there someone who would make all this stuff up? Sure. No doubt there's someone out there who likes internet adulation enough to cook up a story. Is this an instance of that happening? Not very likely, I think, since it corroborates what we're hearing from a lot of other people about Uber's culture, and Ms. Fowler's story. I judge that there is a high likelihood this story is true or mostly true.
That's all you can do really. You're never going to get first-hand, attributed corroboration in a case like this. This is because anyone in a position to do that would be outing the anonymous whistle-blower by corroborating, especially if more than two people did. If they care about the victim, they will respect her choice to remain anonymous. So demanding more before assigning credibility is tantamount to deciding to always disbelieve anonymous accounts. That is an option available to you, but I don't think that option is the most useful for developing true beliefs about the world around me, so I don't choose it.
Additionally, it's in Lyft's or other detractors best interests not to fake additional claims. This is a scandal that will grow on its own, as/if more women come forward. If Lyft et al is caught faking claims, they discredit all the claims and make themselves the bad guys instead of Uber. All Lyft has to do is sit back and watch Uber dig themselves deeper into the hole they're in.
As other posters have also touched on, there is a history of men (and women) doubting and minimizing abuse claims made by women. This is not a good mindset to take as it minimizes the women's experience in favor of a corporation or individual who is already in a more powerful position than the accuser. By minimizing one accuser, we make it harder for women as a whole to speak up against abuse, which is not acceptable.
These claims can be easily disproven by Uber if they were false, and the fact that Uber hasn't denied them says a lot.
So I'm going to believe this until I have a compelling reason not to, and "but it could be fake" isn't one.
As a bystander I don't even want to say out loud what you did, even though it crossed my mind.
Women have historically been ignored when reporting.
Most of the women who left Uber didn't publicly announce why they did. Now we're seeing a plausible explanation.
No, reputable news sources shouldn't (and don't) publish claims like these without substantiation. But I don't see a problem with HN commenters discussing claims like these even though this is all we have to go on. And I don't see how that's an argument against its fundamental plausibility, which is what your parent comment discusses.
That detail seems suspect to me. There are also essentially no details about the work that convey inside knowledge about the ideosyncracies of Uber specifically at a work place. It is also weird to me that she chose to be anonymous but included her height and a bunch of specific incidental details - it reminds me of how liars frequently add an excessive amount of detail to add credibility to their stories.
Personally it sounds true to me. but I'd like to see more scrutiny from someone with perspective on this.
-Chauvinistic, racist and homophobic attitudes were far too normal
-It was normal for guys to openly refer to attractive female colleagues as sluts
-They had private chats where guys wrote sexual fantasy stories about female colleagues and supervisors where they performed all sorts of demeaning acts on the women
Also the fact that she talks about driver compensation makes it look like it was an article written just to smear Uber. I may be wrong though, but really, really hard to believe.
Edit: She refused to meet Freda Kapor (see comments in post) makes it all the more suspicious.
- in the 3rd paragraph, it includes the gender wage gap topic. Usually companies keep employee salaries hidden from each other, so the way its included here feels more like box-ticking of a feminist talking point
- also in the 3rd paragraph, it establishes the character as somebody who is not overly "privileged", which is important for liberals (privilege undermines your platform of victimhood; if you're writing something like this, the less privilege the better)
- the 4th paragraph introduces the ideals of respecting human beings regardless of their gender, sexuality of religion. It's like the writer is going for a broad thematic sweep.
- also in the 4th paragraph, it refers to the concept of "triggering", another SJW trope that other people would probably cringe at using
- this sort of thing just sounds like it was written by Lena Dunham: "Uber finally broke me by destroying my dignity as a human being, and reduced my aspirations by attaching their worth them to a female reproductive organ. Like they did to Susan, Uber killed a part of me that was most precious."
- this bit sounds very far fetched, like the author is trying to work in examples of misogyny that they've witnessed on the web: "They had private chats where guys wrote sexual fantasy stories about female colleagues and supervisors where they performed all sorts of demeaning acts on the women."
- the author seems to have a hang-up about high-heels, another feminist issue, and even works it into dialogue: after casually asking me if I was married or in a relationship, he told me that he liked women in heels. “You know what heels do don’t you?”
- weaving in another grand feminist theme: "I would wonder why I went to grad school instead of wearing heels and marrying a rich guy so I would never have to work."
- as others have noted, the personal detail that is included doesn't seem like it's written by someone really concerned about preserving their anonymity. And at the same time, the rest of the article seems strangely impersonal, running through generic feminist tropes
I am not saying the basic details are entirely implausible, but the way it's written leads me to strongly suspect it's fake.
I have had no private experience with something like this being "too good to be true", and multiple instances of it being all too true. And there is obviously a publicly known instance of something like this that appears quite credible (the Susan Fowler blogpost). So you understand why I'd feel the opposite way---that in spite of the lack of substantiation, this feels all too true.
I could tell it was fake because it hit on so many tropes of the left.
Here's a more directly comparable example (incredibly long winded expose... skimming recommended)
It's not about the events, it's about how they are framed and told by the anonymous author.
The Contraspin article is pretty fascinating and from skimming it, makes a decent case worth taking seriously, but one good case isn't a consensus; in fact, it appears to run directly contrary to the consensus. (It also has plenty of weak spots; for example, someone who's been Executive Director of the EFF for 15 years has a lot of credibility in my eyes.) By contrast, Sarah Fowler's article has been corroborated by reputable sources like the New York Times , who've found additional horror stories along similar lines. (To be clear, I'm operating under the assumption we're in agreement that all indications are that Sarah Fowler's story is fundamentally accurate.)
Do you have any examples where it's a thorough consensus that an anonymous testimonial was made up to hurt someone, the way, for example, there's a thorough consensus that the Rolling Stone UVA article was pretty much made up?
I recall a few similar instances over the years but I can't find links to all of them. Not sure if I can find an exact fit for an anonymous story made up to smear someone. The accusations of child-rape against Trump just before the election spring to mind:
More generally on fake accounts, there was the fake Syrian lesbian blogger:
There was the fake deaf cerebral palsy blogger:
There was this "meeting a troll" story from years ago which I always suspected was fake - looked it up just now, and while there's no hard evidence that it is fake, the writer (who made no claims to using a pseudonym), has since vanished from the face of the web, and it seems no journalists ever fact checked the story:
My google search turned up this article from Breitbart which is actually pretty good, a rundown of fake stories that became national news over the years:
Their comment on the infamous Stephen Glass I think gets to the heart of how fake articles get written:
Some speculated Glass fooled so many editors because he had “wonder boy” star power and great personal charisma. Others thought it was because he understood and flattered the biases and expectations of the publications he worked for – he sold them stories they wanted to publish, surfing the early wave of “narrative” obsession that has completely consumed mainstream journalism over the past two decades. Glass invented people, organizations, and events that lived down to his publishers’ darkest expectations of every social group and profession except their own.
This is a good point, but I thought what historically happens is that there are women who are too afraid to speak up? That's why I personally believe the story.. hopefully more people will speak up and so it won't matter that one of them isn't real.
If history shows anything, and despite what we may like to think, public outrage has very little impact on corporate reality. The key to enacting change at Uber is the company management and HR. Rest assured the people that matter will know if this story is true.
My first thought was that someone has launched an all out PR attack against Uber. There are hundreds of comments here going after Uber. This was an anonymous post and could be totally fake.
But it's also possible that it's someone who likes Lyft or/and hates Uber.
After all the shady campaigns Uber has used against their competitors, even if this were true, I'd be fine with it.
Having spent years working at multiple SV tech companies, where even the slightest tinge of a racist or sexist affront would land you in an office in front of HR and a company lawyer, I find this account to be very difficult to believe. Slanty eye joe? Please.
We don't know if this is a (poorly written) attempt to sink Uber (which I don't happen to care for) by someone with a short position and an evening to spare, or if it has been penned by an employee with a grudge.
Please have some credulity before parading your #deleteuber hashtags and morally superior posturing so the world can marvel at how virtuous you are. There has never been a more evil force in the world than an outraged, self-righteous mob inflamed by twisted anecdotes.
And yes, I've resorted to creating a throwaway account, fully expecting the flagging and down-voting groupthink brigade to be in force. If there's a shameful story here, it's more likely this disturbing human phenomenon, not an anonymous blog post, the veracity of which we know nothing about.
I find myself suspicious of this new culture of "standing together in solidarity," "letting vulnerable people tell their narratives," "being supportive," etc. These all sound like perfectly upstanding things to do, but nowadays they dominate discourse. Facts, reason, and inquiry are now considered oppressive.
I've met some people who have asked, why is this a problem? Who cares if a couple people make things up, when there are so many people hurting out there? Well, people who make things up make real stories less believable. And it incentivizes victimhood, which nowadays carries with it the reward of not having to engage in debate, because anyone who voices doubt is considered a monster. Someone earlier got flagged for saying what you said. Not just downvoted so his post would be light gray, but flagged so his post would disappear.
And really, at the end of the day, what can trigger-happy moral outrage accomplish that a quiet sense of justice backed by reason, fairness, and determination can't?
This is a critical point. Is there a way to express doubt, sans body language, that can further a discussion without evoking responses such as this? [https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13748089]
Cartoonish and poorly written are subjective judgements.
These experiences might seem implausible to you because they might never be happening when you're looking. In light of other, non-anonymous and fact-checked accounts of Susan's experience, I wouldn't think it is implausible.
All-in-all, while I agree in principle that one should apply fair judgement before believing someone's anonymous story, I do not think it warrants incredulity, especially and ironically from an anon account. If you believe that Amy should not have posted anonymously, I find it laughable that you use an anonymous account fearing flagging and down-voting in a low stakes environment fearing the "groupthink brigade".
This type of language is intentionally attempts to provoke emotion, which in turn reduces the ability for the community to collectively find truth. It sounds like perhaps you've had some anecdotal experiences where you feel like you're the victim of Pc-police, but if you want to convince anyone I recommend you share the data-points of your experience rather than play to emotions.