It was seven o’clock on a cold January evening when Orhan, a taxi driver for Uber, first realized he had a problem. Well into his second shift of the day, he tried logging on to the mobile app that connects him with his customers but found himself shut out and staring blankly at the words “network error.”
Just an hour earlier he’d been on Twitter arguing with disgruntled Black Cab driverswho he says were racially abusing him. One of the “trolls”—upset at Orhan’s choice of language—had reported the exchange to Uber, and Orhan had been blocked from accessing the system.
Parked up in his gray Toyota Prius in the suburbs of North East London, a text came through from the company asking him to come in the following morning to “discuss the account.” He arrived on time, if a little nervous, expecting to have his case heard and quickly get back onto the system. Two minutes later he left the office without a job. In the cold, dystopian language of cyberspace capitalism, he’d been “deactivated.” And there was nothing he could do to contest it.