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The Uber Files: Leaked Documents Reveal a Strategy of Chaos – Has Anything Changed?



By Press Trust of India | Updated: 13 July 2022

Uber has had a controversial history since its founding in 2009, from violent conflicts among drivers to a secret software allegedly used to evade law enforcement.

Now, a leak of over 1,24,000 documents dubbed the Uber files shows the extent to which the firm under co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick capitalised on that chaos to expand across 40 countries.

My research explores the relationship between Uber and the state. The company’s strategy to grow at all costs has been uneven, shaped and slowed by varying regulations in different markets.

In recent years, Uber appears to have toned down its approach and stop some of the more aggressive activity detailed in the leaks. But in my view, the strategy at the heart of the company’s success means it will always be in battle with the laws where it operates.

The Uber files reportedly show the company had a deliberate strategy of breaking or ignoring the law and was very much aware of it. Uber’s original service – citizens driving other citizens in their private cars without permits or licenses of any kind – was mostly in a grey legal area. In emails, executives joked about being “pirates” and the company’s model being “just fucking illegal”, when it faced legal opposition in entering new markets.

The leaked documents also reveal the role that lobbying and relationships with friendly politicians played in Uber’s success. The company hired powerful lobbyists, many of them former members or associates of national governments who promised to end revolving doors between politics and industry.

Meetings with politicians included figures like France’s then-economy minister (and now president) Emmanuel Macron and then-mayor of Hamburg (and now chancellor of Germany) Olaf Scholz.

Embracing the chaos also allegedly included endangering the company’s drivers. Almost wherever Uber landed, taxi unions organised protests that could sometimes turn violent. Messages in the Uber files show that Kalanick considered that Uber drivers going to a taxi drivers’ protest in France was “worth it” as “violence guarantee[s] success”.

Uber also allegedly had in place a “kill switch”, a technological tool to prevent authorities from accessing Uber’s data when they raided its offices.

The company has made an effort to distance itself from the allegations in the Uber files. A statement issued by the company attributes the content of the leaks to the Kalanick era, and stresses the change in leadership and values.

Meanwhile, Kalanick’s spokesperson has said that Uber’s approach to expansion was not his own doing, but was instead “under the direct oversight and with the full approval of Uber’s robust legal, policy, and compliance groups”.

What has (and hasn’t) changed This chaos strategy arguably worked. Uber is now a USD 43 billion company, and its drivers make around 19 million journeys a day. Yet, it still struggles with profitability and aggressive competitors.

In 2017, Kalanick stepped down and was replaced as CEO by Dara Khosrowshahi. Most of the leadership has also changed since then. Accusations about a workplace culture of harassment and sexism appear to have dried up.

The company has generally moved away from its original service towards one where licensed drivers use vehicles with specific permits to hail passengers (in other words, a taxi for the smartphone era), and introduced a food delivery wing, Uber Eats. It has also taken a calmer and more polite approach to expansion — moving slower, breaking less stuff.

Let me give you two examples: Uber entered Madrid in 2014 in disregard of a Spanish law requiring companies and drivers to have a specific license. It entered Berlin the same year, in violation of German competition laws. The company was banned, left both cities and returned later in compliance with existing regulations.

When addressing the German expansion in 2018, Khosrowshahi admitted that Uber’s approach had backfired, and pledged to grow responsibly. Similarly, in talking about the experience in Spain, Carles Lloret, Uber’s CEO for southern Europe, acknowledged that “it was a mistake to replicate the American model – more liberal – without taking into consideration the Spanish context”.

And yet, some things have stayed the same. The company faces multiple lawsuits, most of them around whether its workers are classed as employees, and its profitability remains an open question. As I explain in my research, these two things can be explained by the company’s fundamental strategy: that of “contentious compliance”.

Uber adapts to existing rules, but only as little as necessary to provide its services. Meanwhile, it continues to fight legislation everywhere – spending billions on lobbying and in crafting political connections – to push existing rules closer to its preferences.

Uber’s executives know their business model might not be sustainable, and even less so if they are forced to classify workers as employees and pay for related rights and benefits. Fighting regulations is a survival strategy.

They have a preferred model in mind – as close as possible to their original one. Though they are not openly breaking laws anymore, they continue to push for their preferred regulations through the courts or by finding legal loopholes.

In a memo recently sent to employees and leaked to the press Khosrowshahi wrote: “We will be even more hardcore about costs across the board.” The company knows that if it is forced to re-classify drivers as workers (as, for example, the UK supreme court has ruled) the financial situation will be even worse.

Beyond another stain in its reputation, Uber has very real problems. Profitability might be the most urgent one for the company, but for our society there is a far more important one.

Apps like Uber and the hundreds that followed promised innovation. Instead, they have brought a barely-disguised version of the exploitation and corruption that has always characterised capitalism. Given the allegations in the Uber files, one also has to wonder if there will ever be consequences for tech entrepreneurs with a taste for rule breaking.


Amitabh Bachchan Wins Interim Order for Protection of His Personality Rights



By ANI | Updated: 26 November 2022

Bollywood legend and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan filed a suit in Delhi High Court seeking protection of his personality rights, image, voice or any of his characteristics without his consent, following which the court passed an interim ex-parte injunction in his favour.

Eminent lawyer Harish Salve along with Ameet Naik and Pravin Anand, instructed by Anand and Naik, appeared for Bachchan in the High Court. The matter was heard before Justice Navin Chawla.

Salve submitted that there is a complete misuse of Amitabh Bachchan’s name, image, voice or any of his characteristics without his consent.

“The misuse of his name, image and voice, especially by the mobile application developers, and people conducting lottery by illegally associating with KBC, book publishers, T-shirt vendors and various other businesses, has prompted Mr Amitabh Bachchan to approach the High Court, seeking a restraining order against the use of his personality traits,” Salve said.

The lawyer for Amitabh Bachchan also brought to the notice of the Delhi High Court that alleged infringers have illegally registered Bachchan’s name as web-domain names such as and

Delhi High Court’s Justice Navin Chawla noted that the plaintiff/Amitabh Bachchan alleges a violation of his publicity right as a celebrity.

The court further noted that it could not seriously be disputed that the plaintiff is a very well-known personality and is aggrieved by the usage of his name, image voice etc without his consent.

“I am of the opinion that the plaintiff has been able to make out prima facie case in his favour. The defendants appear to be using celebrity status without his authorization, permission and consent,” the HC judge said.

Justice Navin Chawla in his interim order passed an interim ex-parte injunction in favour of the Plaintiff/ Amitabh Bachchan and against the defendants.

The plea stated that there is an infringement of the Plaintiff’s personality through various manners like digital means, instant messaging apps, physical means etc.

The digital means include several websites and mobile apps that have been found misappropriating the plaintiff’s photographs and/or other characteristics, to create popularity amongst the public and to entice members of the public to download such mobile apps.

The instant messaging apps include several unscrupulous parties that have been found using Bachchan’s photograph along with his name, and the representation of a TV Show Kaun Banega Crorepati (which is associated with Bachchan), to scam the public into believing that Kaun Banega Crorepati is offering lottery prizes to the members of the public.

The physical means include the cases where dishonest traders physically affix the actor’s images and posters on their places of business, on billboards or even on products that they engage in the manufacture and sale of, with the aim to unlawfully show a nexus/affiliation/sponsorship/association with the plaintiff, so as to boost their illegal profits.

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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Enters Lunar Orbit a Week After Artemis I Launch



By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 26 November 2022

NASA’s Orion spacecraft was placed in lunar orbit Friday, officials said, as the much-delayed Moon mission proceeded successfully.

A little over a week after the spacecraft blasted off from Florida bound for the Moon, flight controllers “successfully performed a burn to insert Orion into a distant retrograde orbit,” the US space agency said on its website.

The spacecraft is to take astronauts to the Moon in the coming years — the first to set foot on its surface since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

This first test flight, without a crew on board, aims to ensure that the vehicle is safe.

“The orbit is distant in that Orion will fly about 40,000 miles above the Moon,” NASA said.

While in lunar orbit, flight controllers will monitor key systems and perform checkouts while in the environment of deep space, the agency said.

It will take Orion about a week to complete half an orbit around the Moon. It will then exit the orbit for the return journey home, according to NASA.

On Saturday, the ship is expected to go up to 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, a record for a habitable capsule. The current record is held by the Apollo 13 spacecraft at 248,655 miles (400,171 km) from Earth.

It will then begin the journey back to Earth, with a landing in the Pacific Ocean scheduled for December 11, after just over 25 days of flight.

The success of this mission will determine the future of the Artemis 2 mission, which will take astronauts around the Moon without landing, then Artemis 3, which will finally mark the return of humans to the lunar surface.

Those missions are scheduled to take place in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

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Amazon Said to End Two EU Antitrust Probes by Year-End to Avoid Fine



By Reuters | Updated: 26 November 2022

US online retail giant Amazon may be able to end two EU antitrust investigations by the end of the year after tweaking concessions to address concerns over its use of sellers’ data, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Settling the EU investigations means the company will avoid a fine of as much as 10 percent of its global turnover.

Faced with charges of using its size, power and data to push its own products to gain an unfair advantage over rival merchants that also use its platform, Amazon in July offered to refrain from using sellers’ data for its own competing retail business and its private label products.

The European Commission then sought feedback from rivals and customers and subsequently said the company needed to improve its concession.

Amazon has increased the range of data which it cannot use, one of the people said.

“It is possible an EU decision will come by the end of the year,” the person said.

The EU competition enforcer declined to comment.

Asked for comment, Amazon reiterated that it had engaged constructively with the Commission to address their concerns.

The company’s other concession is equal treatment of sellers when ranking their offers for the “buy box” on its website that generates the bulk of its sales.

It has offered to set up a second buy box for a rival product if it differs substantially in price and delivery from the product in the first box.

Bloomberg was the first to report the possibility of an EU decision by the end of the year.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Paytm to Resubmit Application for Authorisation of Payment Aggregator Services



By ANI | Updated: 26 November 2022

Digital payments and financial services company Paytm has shared an update with the exchanges about its 100 percent subsidiary, Paytm Payments Services.

The fintech company said that it has received a letter from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in response to an application from its subsidiary for the authorisation to provide payment aggregator services for online merchants.

The company can now resubmit the application within 120 calendar days for the payment aggregator services. Ahead of that, the company will seek necessary approval for past downward investment from Paytm into its subsidiary, to comply with foreign direct investment guidelines.

During this process, the company will not onboard new online merchants.

“We can continue to onboard new offline merchants and offer them payment services including All-in-One QR, Soundbox, Card Machines, etc. Similarly, PPSL can continue to do business with existing online merchants, for whom the services will remain unaffected,” said the company in its exchange filing on Saturday.

This essentially means that Paytm’s strong business momentum is likely to continue, with no impact on its profitability target as the company can continue to work with its existing online merchants.

Additionally, Paytm’s growing device deployments base and increasing offline payments base will also not be impacted with this development, as it can continue to onboard new merchants.

The company specifically outlined in its filing that this has no material impact on its business and revenues since the communication from RBI is applicable only to the onboarding of new online merchants.

“We are hopeful of receiving the necessary approvals in a timely manner and resubmitting the application,” said the company in the filing.

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Huawei, ZTE Sale, Import Banned in US After Being Listed as Threats by FCC



By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 26 November 2022

US authorities announced a ban Friday on the import or sale of communications equipment deemed “an unacceptable risk to national security” — including gear from Chinese giants Huawei Technologies and ZTE.

Both firms have been on a roster of companies listed as a threat by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the new rules bar future authorizations of their equipment.

The move is the latest in a series of actions to limit the access of Chinese telecoms firms in United States networks, and comes amid a long-running standoff between the world’s two biggest economies.

US officials have shown growing wariness in recent years of Chinese telecommunications companies and technology.

“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders,” said the commission’s chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement.

She added that the new rules are a part of ongoing work to guard against security threats.

The order also affects companies including video surveillance equipment firms Hangzhou Hikvision and Dahua Technology.

The FCC said Friday that it was also seeking comment on future action relating to existing authorizations.

Previously, Washington had banned Huawei from supplying US government systems and strongly discouraged the use of its equipment in the private sector, with fears that Huawei equipment could be compromised by Chinese intelligence.

In 2019, it put Huawei on a trade blacklist that barred US suppliers from doing business with it, cutting the Chinese firm — also a top smartphone brand — off from Google’s Android mobile operating system.

The US has cited national security fears as well to restrict the operations of China’s big three state-owned mobile carriers.

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Social Networking

Elon Musk Calls Donald Trump’s Twitter Ban ‘Grave Mistake’, Condemns Violence



By Reuters | Updated: 26 November 2022

Twitter’s ban on then President Donald Trump after January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by his supporters was a “grave mistake” that had to be corrected, Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Friday, although he also stated that incitement to violence would continue to be prohibited on Twitter.

“I’m fine with Trump not tweeting. The important thing is that Twitter correct a grave mistake in banning his account, despite no violation of the law or terms of service,” Musk said in a tweet. “Deplatforming a sitting President undermined public trust in Twitter for half of America.”

Last week, Musk announced the reactivation of Trump’s account after a slim majority voted in a Twitter poll in favor of reinstating Trump, who said, however, that he had no interest in returning to Twitter. He added he would stick with his own social media site Truth Social, the app developed by Trump Media & Technology Group.

Republican Trump, who 10 days ago announced he was running for election again in 2024, was banned on January 8, 2021, from Twitter under its previous owners.

At the time, Twitter said it permanently suspended him because of the risk of further incitement of violence following the storming of the Capitol. The results of the November 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden were being certified by lawmakers when the Capitol was attacked after weeks of false claims by Trump that he had won.

Trump repeatedly used Twitter and other sites to falsely claim there had been widespread voter fraud, and had urged supporters to march on the Capitol in Washington to protest.

The attack is being investigated by US prosecutors and a congressional committee.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday on Musk’s statement that Trump did not violate any Twitter terms of service when his account was suspended.

Earlier on Friday, Musk tweeted that calling for violence or incitement to violence on Twitter would result in suspension, after saying on Thursday that Twitter would provide a “general amnesty” to suspended accounts that had not broken the law or engaged in spam.

Replying to a tweet, Musk said it was “very concerning” that Twitter had taken no action earlier to remove some accounts related to the far-left Antifa movement. In response to another tweet asking if Musk considered the statement “trans people deserve to die” as worthy of suspension from the platform, the billionaire said: “Absolutely”.

Change and chaos have marked Musk’s first few weeks as Twitter’s owner. He has fired top managers and it was announced that senior officials in charge of security and privacy had quit.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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