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Uber CEO Quits Trump Advisory Board After Public Pressure

Travis Kalanick leaves advisory economic council after intense criticism and viral online boycott of Uber.

In an email to staff that was subsequently leaked to several news agencies, Kalanick said: “Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the president or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that.”

Uber is just one of several technology firms that have voiced their concerns on the impact of the immigration ban on its workforce. The company said it had set up a $3m legal fund to help those affected.

Trump’s executive order that bans travel to the US from seven Muslim majority nations, has faced a severe and unprecedented backlash from America’s tech companies, partly because many top executives and a large proportion of employees are themselves immigrants.

Executives from companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Netflix spoke out against the travel ban.

Kalanick himself initially seemed hesitant to criticize the executive order, finding himself between a rock and a hard place in regards to his position. In an email to Uber staff that he shared on Facebook on 28 January, the CEO wrote, “This ban will impact many innocent people – an issue that I will raise this coming Friday when I go to Washington for President Trump’s first business advisory group meeting.”

Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO was, at the time of writing, still intent on remaining on Trump’s advisory board.  On Thursday 1st February, Musk released a statement saying that he and others in the council would “express our objections [and] offer suggestions for changes to the policy”.  Musk has also previously stated that the executive order signed by Trump would be easier to challenge directly from inside the council than by arbitrarily shouting from outside.

Musk went onto say: “Advisory councils simply provide advice and attending does not mean that I agree with actions by the Administration … I understand the perspective of those who object to my attending this meeting, but I believe at this time that engaging on critical issues will on balance serve the greater good.”

Uber has come in for some heavy criticism since President Trump’s election. As protesters gathered at several US airports in the aftermath of the travel ban two weeks ago, Uber appeared to defy a taxi strike by removing surge pricing – the mechanism by which prices go up on the service when demand is high.