On Saturday night, as protesters swamped airports nationwide demanding foreigners be released from indefinite detention due to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, Dan O’Sullivan inadvertently created a playbook for getting corporations to stop playing nice with Donald Trump.
O’Sullivan was the first to tweet the hashtag #DeleteUber, although he insists he didn’t invent the idea for an Uber boycott and doesn’t take credit for the phenomenon the hashtag became. His initial string of #DeleteUber tweets, all replies to Uber’s surge pricing announcement, have over 7,000 retweets.
“Let this be a warning: if you are a corporation who thinks you will ride out Trump, and quietly make money at his side, you will be made to pay a price,” O’Sullivan told The Daily Beast.
#DeleteUber wound up becoming the No. 1 trend in the country on Saturday night after the company turned off surge pricing to and from JFK International Airport, where thousands were protesting the Muslim ban. Earlier in the night, the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance announced its members would partially strike in solidarity with the refugees and affected immigrants by not offering services to or from the airport.
Protesters on Twitter alleged that Uber was promoting scab work, highlighting Uber’s stance that drivers aren’t considered employees to begin with, but only independent contractors. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had also been announced as part of Trump’s business advisory board in December.
Kalanick and Uber released several statements attempting to quell the furor, repeatedly insisting they disagree with Trump’s executive order and that they would pay out to drivers stuck in other countries due to the hastily implemented order, but it was too late.
Thousands were already tweeting the hashtag #DeleteUber along with screenshots of the account deletion page.
Direct competitor Lyft capitalized, handing out a $1 million donation to the ACLU, whose lawsuit granted a temporary stay to visa holders held in unlawful detention by Customs and Border Patrol.
“Deleting an Uber account, or tweeting a bunch about it, is quite literally the least anyone can do to register how disgusted one is by Uber's exploitative labor practices and collaboration with Trump,” said O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan wants Kalanick to resign from Trump's board, and predicts this kind of boycott will keep happening to companies who don’t actively defy Trump’s policies that exploit and target their employees.
“The popularity of #deleteUber only exists because decent people around the country and world—including the unionized cab drivers Uber hates and targets—took to the streets, occupying airports in defense of refugees, immigrants, and Muslims,” said O’Sullivan.
"Trump is losing and is going to keep losing. Anyone who sticks with him will lose, too."
Other tech CEOs had had enough, and finally used their apps to deliver calls to action. Dots CEO Paul Murphy was furiously texting with the co-creator of his big name mobile gaming company.
Murphy had a user base of millions of people he could deploy to fund efforts to stop Trump’s discriminatory immigration ban, and he was a little fed up with leaders in his industry who refused to stand up for their employees—immigrant or otherwise.
“I’m still a little bit underwhelmed from the larger tech companies’ responses,” he told The Daily Beast. “I suggested we take over the game—to use that—since we have this big audience.”
So when users opened any of Dots’ mobile games on Saturday night or Sunday morning, they saw this message: “We believe America should be a welcoming place, particularly for those most in need, wherever they come from and whatever their religion.” It then linked out to an ACLU donation page.
When Murphy talked to The Daily Beast on Sunday, he said 4 million people had already seen the message.
“In my mind it’d be much more powerful for these platforms to be proactive—to interrupt people consuming services and remind them that these are products that are built from Americans, but also immigrants or people from outside the country,” said Murphy.
For some tech companies like Uber, however, being proactive in resisting the administration’s more racist and discriminatory policies isn’t just a “powerful” move. It’s a necessary move, if they don’t want a boycott that could directly impact their bottom line literally overnight.
Murphy agrees that CEOs need to be tougher when it comes to orders that make their employees’ lives harder.
“Maybe this will give them more courage to stand up. I know there’s this constant balance of not wanting to appear partisan and not wanting to be perceived as opportunistic, but this just shatters all partisan lines,” he said. “Over half of our team is racial, gender, or ethnic minorities. This hits close to home for us.”
Murphy said his takeover wasn’t just to raise awareness to those in America who would already donate. It’s in part to reach out to those like his “entire family, who voted for Trump” for reasons that had nothing to do with a Muslim ban.
“All of those times they said, ‘Don’t listen to what he says. He doesn’t mean it. He’s not actually gonna do those things.’ This is an opportunity for those people to stand up and say, ‘That’s not what I agreed to. I don’t support this,’” he said.
And it’s also a way to reach out to the rest of the world—or at least 5 million people by tomorrow—and tell them what the values of American companies really are.
“We’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re an American company appalled by what’s happening,” he said. “It’s our worst fear, too. We don’t want you to assume we’re all like Donald Trump.”