#DeleteUber is a hashtag movement that thinks standing up to Trump is as easy as deleting an app on your phone.
During the protest at New York’s JFK airport against Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, the NY Taxi Workers Alliance, a union with 19,000 members, announced it was going on strike around JFK in solidarity with the protesters. Uber didn’t join the hour-long strike, and in fact tweeted that it was turning off surge prices around JFK. It was swiftly accused of attempting to break the strike and capitalise on the controversy. #DeleteUber started trending on Twitter, and numerous protesters downloaded the rival taxi app Lyft as a replacement. Lyft got more daily downloads than Uber for the first time ever.
#DeleteUber was coined by Dan O’Sullivan, who goes by the Twitter handle @Bro_Pair. He added incentive to the anti-Uber ‘movement’ by promising to retweet every screencap showing users deleting their Uber account, as if they might not actually do it without the promise of a retweet. This makes it more a meme than a movement. Some users said they were deleting Uber because it had ‘colluded’ with ‘fascists’: if only we’d known that defeating ‘fascism’ was as easy as making some swipes on your phone.
O’Sullivan’s retweeting of Uber-deleters included those who had already been using Lyft anyway but wanted to make the statement of deleting Uber, and even people who created an Uber account just so they could delete it. O’Sullivan is aware of the laziness of it all. In response to a tweeter who said, ‘This is literally the easiest one of the hashtag resistance plans you lounge-a-bouts can hope for’, he said: ‘If you can’t make it to an airport, there is an absurdly easy thing even the laziest among us can do.’ Instead of appealing to people’s reason and higher political ideas, he tapped into a sense of lethargy. O’Sullivan sagely observed that ‘this has been the only good thing I’ve seen come from hashtags ever’.
It’s certainly a good thing for Uber’s arch rival, Lyft. It doubled its daily downloads, becoming the No1 downloaded app on the Apple App Store on Sunday. It seems many who criticised Uber for ‘scabbing’ are unaware that Lyft had also carried on driving during the taxi strike — though it has since confirmed that it did so with surge pricing switched on, so I guess that makes everything all right for some reason.