Uber and the lawlessness of ‘sharing economy’ corporates

By Frank Pasquale and Siva Vaidhyanathan : guardian – excerpt

Companies including Airbnb and Google compare themselves to civil rights heroes, while using their popularity among consumers to nullify federal law.

Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO. ‘Nullifying companies like Uber claim they are striking a blow against regulations they consider “out-of-date” or “anti-innovation” – their major innovation, however, is to undermine local needs and effective governance.’

In February, Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky compared his firm’s defiance of local housing ordinances with that of Gandhi’s passive resistance to British rule. Meanwhile, a tweeter compared Uber to Rosa Parks, defying unjust laws. Chesky quickly backed down after widespread mockery. Companies acting out of self-interest comparing themselves with the noble heroes of civil rights movements is as absurd as it is insulting.

But there is a better analogy from the US civil rights era for law-flouting firms of the on-demand economy. It’s just not the one corporate leaders claim. They are engaged in what we call “corporate nullification”, following in the footsteps of Southern governors and legislatures in the United States who declared themselves free to “nullify” federal law on the basis of strained and opportunistic constitutional interpretation… (more)

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