Boycotts in the Digital Age

After considering possible effective methods of protest recently I was greatly intrigued to see the outbreak of #DeleteUber.

The hash tag #DeleteUber was born out of perceived strike breaking by Uber of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance strike at JFK airport in New York. I suspect it was also informed by the decision of Uber CEO Kalanick to work with the current presidential administration.

The Verge has a good referenced account of the event. Curbed also has a well written account including response of the other players in the ride sharing industry.

DeleteUber is an interesting example of the ways that digital technology companies may be uniquely susceptible to boycotts.

Historically, boycotts have typically taken a large amount of participation and a substantial amount of time. Traditional accountancy and management practices have often come together to mandate these features.

Non real time accountancy has resulted in the consequence of boycotts taking time to appear on balance sheets. Additionally management could choose to remain unaware of a circumstance until the balance sheet required there attention. Even then they could misidentify the result of the boycott as being relegated to another action or business factor.

In #DeleteUber these two situations were mitigated, the deleting of the app is a metric that I am certain Uber as an organisation are acutely aware of. Consequently the impact of the balance sheet is apparent long before it actually arrives on the balance sheet. Additionally the continuation of the boycott will also be discernible as a metric. While they may or not wish to share the number one suspect Uber will know how many users have reinstalled the app since the trending hash tag. More significantly the empowering nature of social media has played a role here as well. Management, within Uber, will have had no doubt regarding the reason for the app deletions that will occurring and consequently were able to target there response to addressing the causal issues.

What does this mean for future action?

I suspect boycotts in the digital age are actually a means by which communication with companies can be achieved and also used to force public positional changes from companies.

Such changes however many not actually be worth achieving. It should be noted that the #DeleteUber action did not result in a change of government policy.

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