SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The ethos of Silicon Valley has long been to “move fast and break things” and it appears some app-based companies are taking that approach to political advertisements in favor of Proposition 22, as well. If you thought you could escape the constant onslaught of political advertisements in your Uber or Lyft ride, think again.
When you hail a car, an advertisement pops up saying if Prop. 22 fails, prices and wait times will increase, while drivers will lose their income.
Professor Bertrall Ross, who teaches constitutional and election law at UC Berkeley says this is a case of California election law not catching up to technology.
“The California legislature and the California Fair Political Practices Commission probably have not anticipated this particular issue,” said Prof. Ross. “You don’t have that many scenarios in which an app-based company has a ballot proposition that will favor or disfavor a particular company.”
It is not just the customers getting ads. In-app, drivers are getting them, too. The driver’s ad says drivers would get guaranteed earnings and a healthcare stipend if Prop. 22 passes. But, there are only two options clicking “yes” or clicking “okay”. There is not an option for drivers to click “no”.
Hector Castellanos drives for both Uber and Lyft and says the ads first appeared a few weeks ago. “In order to keep working, you have to click ‘yes’,” Castellanos said.
Uber, Lyft and Doordash have already spent $180 million on the ‘Yes on 22’ campaign. They are classifying these ads as non-monetary campaign contributions in filings with the California Secretary of State’s office. There is no state limit on contributions to propositions.
In a statement, Geoff Vetter, a spokesperson with the ‘Yes on 22’ campaign said, “These are enormous stakes and voters should make informed decisions. As important, drivers strongly support Prop. 22 by a 6-to-1 margin do not want to be employees.”
It is unknown whether the data for that 6-to-1 number comes from the ad drivers are forced to click on to continue driving.
“There is not further requirement that limits this self-dealing in terms of money to advertise a political preference in a political ballot proposition,” Ross said.
KPIX 5 has reached out to Uber multiple times for comment, but have not heard back.