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Uber-Lyft Spat Shows How Everything is Now Political


The following is an excerpt from Avi Salzman | January 30, 2017 | Barrons.com |

As thousands of Americans showed up at airports over the weekend to protest President Trump’s refugee ban and immigration restrictions, another battle was going on in the taxi line. New York City taxi drivers refused to pick people up at JFK Airport in response to Trump’s executive order. Uber and Lyft were suddenly thrust into the debate, and their customers and drivers were watching closely.

Tech companies have been involved in politics for years, and their lobbying staffs grew quickly during the Obama administration as Silicon Valley pushed for policies like Net Neutrality and more visas for skilled foreigners. But most of their advocacy was quiet and relatively uncontroversial.

Until this past weekend, most tech CEOs seemed happy to stay quiet in the fierce debates that have erupted over Trump. Tech leaders traveled to Trump Tower during the presidential transition period to discuss policies with then President-elect Trump. And some have joined advisory boards to guide the president, while staying silent about the protesters filling American streets. But it doesn’t look like they’ll be able to hold that line for long. If the last few days are any indication, tech companies have a very tricky few years ahead.

In the wake of the immigration restrictions, several tech CEOs spoke out, with varying degrees of agitation. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a company memo opposing the order and said more than 100 of his employees could be impacted – the order initially affected green card and visa holders as well as other immigrants. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page that the country should “keep our doors open to refugees.”

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