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Ashton Kutcher, here's what's wrong with Uber 'digging up dirt' on journalists

Stuart Dredge
Here comes the part where journalist explain why they should be exempt from ridic
ule and judgment . Well, no
Ashton Kutcher is unhappy about reporting on Uber.
Ashton Kutcher is unhappy about reporting on Uber. Photograph: Jason LaVeris/Fil
mMagic
Wednesday 19 November 2014 16.46 GMT
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As an investor in Uber, it s no surprise that Ashton Kutcher is unhappy with some
of the coverage of the company in recent days. But a series of tweets he posted
this afternoon are likely to fuel more controversy.
Uber has been under fire after BuzzFeed reported on comments made by its senior
vice president of business Emil Michael at an event.
Michael suggested that his company would be prepared to spend up to $1m on inves
tigating the personal lives of journalists who criticised the company, with spec
ific reference to Sarah Lacy, co-founder of tech news site PandoDaily.
What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist? asked Kutcher in the f
irst of a series of tweets addressing the controversy today.
I believe we live in a day were the first word has become the word . Rumors span the
globe before anyone has an opportunity to defend them selves. Everyone is guilt
y and then tasked to defend themselves publicly. Questioning the source needs to
happen... Always! So as long as journalist are interested and willing to print
half truths as facts... Yes we should question the source.
Kutcher went on to stress that he was speaking his own views rather than on beha
lf of Uber, before commenting on the likely response. This should be fun... Here
comes the part where journalist explain why they should be exempt from ridicule
and judgement and probing...
ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist? @pando @TechCrunch @
Uber
ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
So as long as journalist are interested and willing to print half truths as fact
s... Yes we should question the source.
ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
This should be fun... Here comes the part where journalist explain why they shou
ld be exempt from ridicule and judgement and probing...
ashton kutcher (@aplusk) November 19, 2014
U r all right and I'm on the wrong side of this ultimately. I just wish journali
sts were held to the same standards as public figures.
Yep, here it comes. First, what makes Lacy shady ? She has been a prominent critic
of Uber, including an opinion piece in October titled The horrific trickle down
of Asshole culture: Why I ve just deleted Uber from my phone, about a sexist adver
t launched by the company s French office.
If criticising a company s business practices and corporate culture is shady... we

ll, I don t know what word is best used to describe responding to that criticism w
ith threats to investigate the writer s family and personal life. A reminder of Mi
chael s comments:
Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending a million dollars to hire four top
opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Ube
r fight back against the press they d look into your personal lives, your families,
and give the media a taste of its own medicine...
At the dinner, Michael expressed outrage at Lacy s column and said that women are
far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. He said that
he thought Lacy should be held personally responsible for any woman who followed
her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted.
Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber s dirt-diggers, Michael sai
d, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very spe
cific claim about her personal life.
In this situation, it s pretty clear where the shadiness comes in, and it s not the
journalist.
Kutcher is right: journalists should be subject to probing and judgement and que
stioning, especially if they re writing half-truths as facts . But it s their work
r articles, their sources, their conclusions that need probing. Not their person
al lives.

thei

I have a lot of sympathy for Kutcher, who has endured intrusive, speculative and
doubtless usually half-true (at best) journalism about his own personal life, a
nd that of his family.
Few tech journalists can ever know what it s like to have the bones of their marit
al relationship picked over in the tabloids, or to regularly run the gauntlet of
aggressive paparazzi with their loved ones. Few would blame Kutcher for having
an extremely negative view of journalism in general as a result.
Even so, harassing or printing lies about a celebrity is a very different kind o
f journalism to criticising no matter whether you put asshole in the headline
chnology company that they ve invested in.
In the age of corporate blogs and social media, Uber had plenty of opportunity to
defend themselves that didn t involve private investigators and personal dirt-digg
ing.
All journalists
celebrity and tech hacks alike are on notice that if our journal
ism is bad, we can be called out publicly. Often by one another, in fact, but al
so by the companies and people that we write about. It s a hugely positive develop
ment.
Judging by Michael s comments and the separate controversy about the company acces
sing a reporter s personal data without permission, Uber s natural inclination was t
o choose another path.
U r all right and I m on the wrong side of this ultimately. I just wish journalists
were held to the same standards as public figures, he tweeted, presumably after
reading some of the feedback.
I suspect more journalists share Kutcher s views on standards than he thinks, but
when that leads them to criticise companies in his portfolio, that doesn t make th
em shady.

a te