Uber Retracts Limp and “Fictitious” Rebuttal To BuzzFeed On Rape Customer Service Reports

Megan Reynolds | March 8, 2016 - 10:48 am

On March 6, BuzzFeed reported on and published screenshots of Uber’s Zendesk-based customer support system which showed thousands of customer support tickets containing the word rape. Uber, naturally, shot back with a rebuttal that refuted these claims, saying that the Zendesk screenshots contained false matches. They pointed to the tricky matter of the word “rape”, saying that “Any email address or rider/driver last name that contains the letters R, A, P, E consecutively (for example, Don Draper) are included.”

If you read this, furrowed your brow, and wondered precisely how the Zendesk search algorithm worked, you’ll be glad to know that Uber’s explanation is a carefully constructed fiction proved to be as such by this memo sent to BuzzFeed yesterday afternoon, clarifying their explanation.

* An earlier version of this post stated that “ Any email address or rider/driver last name that contains the letters R, A, P, E consecutively (for example, Don Draper) are included. After analyzing the data, we found more than 11,000 rider names and 17,500 rider emails with the letters ‘rape’”.

Zendesk, one of our customer support platforms, contacted us to say that their search tool would not return a name such as “Don Draper” when searching for the word “rape.” However, such a search would (and did) return names that start with the letters R,A,P,E — even if the ticket itself had nothing to do with a claim of rape. We apologize to Zendesk for using an imperfect (and fictitious) example that doesn’t accurately represent their search functionality. This does not impact our analysis of the overall numbers, which was based on a manual review of these tickets rather than a simple keyword search.

BuzzFeed also reports that they had learned that Zendesk’s search didn’t work the way Uber said it did, but the timeline of when they received that information is unclear, as is when Zendesk reached out to Uber. Uber has yet to clarify precisely what they’re going to do about the fact that women are consistently being sexually assaulted and raped by their drivers.

[BuzzFeed]