#DeleteUber protest caused so many account closures an automated system had to be built

Uber had until now processed account deletion requests manually Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

So many people deleted their Uber accounts in the wake of the '#DeleteUber' movement that the ride-sharing company had to quickly create an automated way for customers to leave the service.

The mass exodus began on 27 January shortly after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily preventing citizens from seven countries from entering the United States. This caused a large protest at New York's JFK airport, supported by the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who went on strike and stopped pickups in the area.

Uber then tweeted to say its surge pricing, where fares go up during times of high demand, was being switched off at JFK. Users took this to mean Uber was not taking part in the strike in the pursuit of picking up extra business and, added to the fact Uber CEO Travis Kalanick serves on Trump's business advisory team, the #DeleteUber hashtag was born and trended for the next two days.

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The demand for accounts to be closed was so strong that, according to Mike Isaac, a New York Times reporter and former Uber employee, the company scrambled to create an automated account deletion system. Until 27 January, perhaps surprisingly, all deleted Uber accounts were terminated manually by staff.

In a tweeted statement Isaac said: "I am told that the issue [with accounts not being deleted immediately] was that Uber has never had an automated process for deleting user accounts in place at all. This was something that was supposedly on the roadmap, but you can imagine it wasn't prioritised because, well, it's probably not something a company wants to make super simple for users."

Before this, Isaac added, "If a user wanted to delete their account, it would require a manual, human touch. Literally someone inside of Uber doing it manually." Uber reportedly has more than 15 million users worldwide but it isn't known how many former users have deleted their account. Isaac suggested the number wanting to dump Uber over the last weekend of January was "unprecedented" and "a big deal".

Attempts to stem the flow of users quitting Uber included the setting up of a $3m (£2.4m) fund to help drivers affected by Trump's contentious immigration policy, and an automated reply to deletion requests states: "We wanted to let you know that Uber shared your views on the immigration ban: it's unjust, wrong and against everything we stand for as a company".

Uber has since confirmed the new account deletion system. "Anyone who requested that their account be deleted will have their account deleted, and reports to the contrary are false. Over the weekend we implemented a new automated process to handle an increased volume of requests and implemented a password check, a security best practice to avoid abuse and fraud."

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