In the News / Social Media

#SydneySiege: social media and an Uber u-turn

Social media saw a mixed reaction to the armed siege and hostage situation in a cafe in Sydney’s Central Business District las week.  Whilst some tweeted their outrage then bystanders would take selfies, others used social media to show their support for the city’s interfaith communities as the #Illridewithyou hashtag trended worldwide.


The scene attracted visitors throughout the day, some of whom took to social media sites to let friends and followers know where they were.  But the smiling faces and posed photographs forced a backlash from other users, declaring how inappropriate and offensive such posts were.  At the time the photos were uploaded, up to 40 hostages were held at gunpoint by an armed man who was thought to be a supporter of the Islamic State.


Despite the distasteful photographs circulating worldwide, there was a positive response on social media, too.  A hashtag #illridewithyou started with Twitter users across Australia offering to travel on public transport with people from different faiths.  The hashtag was soon retweeted over 100,000 times and began to trend worldwide.

Uber u-turn

Sydney also played host to yet another PR disaster for the smartphone taxi app, Uber, which hiked prices by up to 400% for those travelling away from the seige location.

The San Francisco based company quickly responded to mounting criticism on social media, initially claiming that the price surge was introduced “to encourage drivers to get into the CBD [central business district]”.  However, the company soon made a u-turn and declared that all their fares would be free to those trying to evacuate the area, even going so far as to offer refunds for anyone who had been charged the increased rate earlier in the day.

The taxi and car-sharing company, which started in 2009 and now provides its service in 250 cities in over 50 countries, has been plagued with a series of PR worries and setbacks across its global network. In India, the service has been outlawed in New Delhi following allegations that a driver raped a passenger and fled the scene and in France, the legislature is set to introduce new laws in January which will make its UberPOP car-sharing scheme disfficult to succeed.

Elsewhere, Uber has faced criticism of unfair competitive practices from taxi operators, regulators and policy makers and has received fines for misleading the public about the vetting procedures and insurance credentials of drivers.  Are we seeing an envious backlash against another successful digital business, or is there something more to Uber than cheap fares? I joined Michael  Wilson at Arise News to discuss the rocky road Uber has already traveled.

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