Ride-Sharing Fight Gets Messy: Industry Groups Launch Smear Campaigns

Earlier this week, the ride-sharing industry launched TaxiFacts, a campaign intended to take on what it calls the monopoly of Big Taxi. A group for the taxi industry quickly took the opportunity to counterprogram—using TaxiFact's hashtag to do it.

The ride-sharing industry wants you to know who the real enemy is: “Big Taxi.”

Businesses like Uber and Lyft have faced regulatory troubles left and right as they’ve expanded. Now they’re taking the lead on a new anti-cab campaign called TaxiFacts.

The hashtag-heavy effort—it’s using #BigTaxi and #HailFail so far—has the backing of a number of trade groups and advocacy groups, including the Internet Association and TechFreedom, among others.

TaxiFacts highlights ways in which the taxicab industry—which the site repeatedly calls Big Taxi—is hurting drivers, stifling innovation, and causing safety issues.

“Instead of innovating to improve their services, Big Taxi wants government and politicians to protect their profits and their monopolies—even though taxis are unreliable and unsafe for riders and unfair to drivers,” the site argues.

The campaign was launched less than a month after Uber hired a big name: David Plouffe, a former senior adviser to President Obama and campaign manager of his first White House bid, to head its public policy efforts. However, Plouffe doesn’t start as his new gig until the end of the month, so he can’t take credit for TaxiFacts yet.

Hashtag #Hijack

“On its site, the group paints the traditional taxi industry as a monopoly that uses its political clout to curb innovation, skirt safety standards, and take advantage of drivers,” notes Wired writer Marcus Wohlsen. “The latter two criticisms sound very familiar, because they’re the same charges the taxi industry levels at Uber.”

Wohlsen has a point: Earlier this year, the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association launched a campaign called “Who’s Driving You” meant to highlight the “serious threat to public” safety that ride-sharing firms create. Somewhat ironically, that campaign has now latched onto the #hailfail hashtag, too:

Both sides have ammo in their favor, as it turns out. Uber drivers have unionized in Seattle; meanwhile insurance companies have raised concerns about ride-sharing services having adequate coverage.

Meanwhile, the taxi industry is struggling with image issues of its own—particularly, that it’s using its clout to limit competition from the ride-sharing field, a charge the TaxiFacts site seizes on.

“The taxi industry is a monopoly, controlled by a few powerful insiders who will do whatever it takes to protect their vast profits,” the site states. “Now, threatened by innovation and competition for the first time, ‘Big Taxi’ is spending millions on political campaigns to protect its turf.”

No matter what happens next, it should be a bumpy ride.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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