The plan began in 2015, when the strategists of the North American company realised that they could benefit from acts of violence against Uber drivers, gaining the sympathy of public opinion, reveals the Uber Files investigation, conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The investigation revealed today cites one of the company's lobbyists, Christian Samoilovich, in a message sent to a colleague in March of this year, in which he recognises that Uber could use violence against the company's drivers in its favour, after an adviser to the Commission European wrote on Facebook that an Uber she had travelled in had been attacked by taxi drivers.
That week, four Uber drivers were attacked in the same night by taxi drivers in the Netherlands who were protesting against the benefits that the US company was enjoying, leading Niek van Leeuwen, the organization's manager for that European region, to report the situation to then CEO Travis Kalanick.
“Narrative of violence”
With the approval of the company's general management, Leeuwen made his reaction of indignation at these cases to the Dutch media, feeding the case in the media and making an internal report in which he advised: “We have to keep this narrative of violence”.
From there, Uber began advising drivers to stand up to violence from taxi drivers, reminding them that this was the best way to protect the interests of the company they worked for.
Kalanick appears in several messages advocating that Uber drivers stand up to taxi drivers, even despite the risk of being physically attacked, advising that “the narrative of violence” be maintained.
Out of context
A spokesperson for the former CEO told the consortium of journalists that these statements are out of context and that Kalanick never wanted to put the lives of Uber drivers at risk, but current company officials were outraged by these practices.
One of the examples presented by the ICIJ investigation - cited by The Washington Post, one of the media partners in this investigation - occurred in Portugal, in 2015, when taxi drivers committed "acts of violence" against Uber drivers on several occasions, causing injuries and leading one of them to be hospitalised.
The contestation against the Uber service in Portugal, and the lack of regulation of its activity, grew in tone throughout the first half of 2015, culminating, at the end of June, in the confirmation of an injunction, presented by the National Association of Transporters Roads in Light Cars (ANTRAL), with the Lisbon Central Court, for the suspension of the activity of the technological platform.
The actions of Portuguese taxi drivers followed one another throughout the second quarter and gained momentum again in September and October, with demonstrations that were held simultaneously in Lisbon, Porto and Faro.
At the time, Portugal was on the eve of legislative elections, which led to the change of government.
The regulation of technological platforms for passenger transport would come into force in 2018.
According to The Washington Post, which places the action in July 2015, Rui Bento, at the time manager of Uber in Portugal, appears quoted in an 'e-mail' to colleagues saying that the company was "considering" to present information about the attacks and injuries to the local media, at a time when ANTRAL, the largest association of taxi drivers in Portugal, sought to counter Uber's expansion strategy.
In Rui Bento’s version, in the messages, the idea behind the dissemination of information about the attacks by taxi drivers against Uber drivers was “to create a direct link between the public statements of violence by the president of ANTRAL (Florêncio Almeida) and these actions, to degrade their public image.”
In response to this message from Rui Bento, Yuri Fernandez, Uber's communications manager, proposed investigating Florêncio Almeida's past: "To see if we have anything 'sexy' for the 'media'", according to the documents cited by the investigation.
The Washington Post says Bento and Fernandez did not respond to requests for comment in this case.