President Donald Trump and his executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven countries could be inadvertently causing a ride-hailing war.
As support mounts for a campaign to get Uber users to delete their accounts, rival Lyft appears to be surging in popularity. By Monday afternoon Pacific, Lyft had taken the fourth spot in the top free apps list on Apple's App Store. On Saturday, it was No. 39, according to TechCrunch. Uber is currently No. 13.
Apple ranks apps by how many people are downloading them in a certain time period. So Lyft's ascent from No. 39 to No. 4 in two days appears to be correlated with the so-called #DeleteUber social media campaign.
The campaign picked up steam over the weekend after a series of events appeared to have caused a public relations storm for Uber. As tech industry heavyweights slammed Trump's immigration ban, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who serves on a strategic forum of business leaders advising Trump, issued a statement on Facebook that was seen as only lightly critical. And then Uber halted surge pricing during a taxi strike aligned with protests at New York's JFK airport, which was seen as both breaking the strike and profiting off the demonstrations.
The 90-day immigration ban, signed by Trump via an executive order on Friday, bars travel to the US for people from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya. A federal judge temporarily halted the ban on Saturday, but many individuals and families who were enroute to the US are still reportedly stranded at borders and in airports worldwide.
Lyft issued a scathing statement on Trump's ban on Sunday and said it's donating $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years for legal defense of immigrants.
Since the #DeleteUber campaign started, Uber has worked to do damage control. It issued statements saying it had no intention of breaking the strike and then Kalanick wrote another Facebook statement on Sunday calling the immigrant ban "unjust" and pledging to create a $3 million legal defense fund to help drivers with immigration and translation services.
Part of Uber's damage control is to spread this message from Kalanick on social media. The company is reportedly paying for promoted tweets on Twitter that quote Kalanick. And on Facebook, the company is allegedly targeting users who've "liked" the ACLU with ads sharing Kalanick's statement, according to The Verge.
Paying for people to see its goodwill could backfire, however. Twitter users are retweeting Uber's promoted tweets with statements like "nice try" and are sharing its Facebook ads saying, "You guys really are pathetic."
Users can't delete Uber simply by tossing the app from the phone. Accounts remain active till users contact Uber support to fully delete everything. Once this is done, Uber is now emailing users to confirm they want to delete an account and then having them click through once again to say yes.
In this follow-up email, Uber has added the company's stance on the immigration ban.
"We wanted to let you know that Uber shares your views on the immigration ban: it's unjust, wrong and against everything we stand for as a company," Uber says in the email.
Lyft declined to comment for this article, and Uber didn't responded to request for comment.
First published Jan. 30, 3:26 p.m. PT.
Update, Jan. 31 at 1:16 p.m.: Adds information on the email Uber sends users who want to delete the app.
CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories you'll find in CNET's newsstand edition.
Life, disrupted: In Europe, millions of refugees are still searching for a safe place to settle. Tech should be part of the solution. But is it? CNET investigates.
US Tech Policy
reading•Lyft tops Apple App Store, because...#DeleteUber
Jan 23•Democrats urge Facebook and Twitter to probe Russian bots
Jan 23•With two questions, Facebook is deciding the future of news
Jan 20•Trump's itchy Twitter thumbs have redefined politics
Jan 19•NSA surveillance programs live on, in case you hadn't noticed