Between December 2012 and August 2015, Uber received five claims of rape and fewer than 170 claims of sexual assault stemming from an Uber ride, according to data the company provided to BuzzFeed. Those numbers differ greatly from those reflected in screenshots from Uber's Zendesk customer support platform that were obtained by BuzzFeed. Those images, which BuzzFeed says were provided by a former Uber customer service rep and confirmed by other parties, show 6,160 results for a search for "sexual assault" and 5,827 results for "rape." In a response to the BuzzFeed piece, Uber calls those search results "highly misleading," saying, for instance, riders may misspell "rate" or use the term "rape" out of context. Also, any word with the letters R-A-P-E in consecutive order will return a result for the search term "rape" (e.g., the name "Don Draper").
To that, BuzzFeed says the screenshots it obtained show nine complaint tickets with the subject "rape" that do not appear to be misspellings, names, or email addresses. As for "sexual assault," Uber tells BuzzFeed the high-volume query results on the obtained screenshots could be the result of riders making claims of assault on other transport services and discussions about sexual assaults in the news, among other things. In response to allegations of sexual assault, Uber tells BuzzFeed that its customer service reps are told to follow up with the person making the claim, and then report it to law enforcement if appropriate. The driver is temporarily deactivated during the investigation. If the investigation is inconclusive, the driver gets a warning and goes back to work. After two inconclusive investigations, a driver is permanently deactivated. While the data provided by Uber doesn't jibe with the screenshots, BuzzFeed notes, "The sheer quantity of these tickets makes it difficult to tell which ones are exaggerations or attempts at false escalations and which are legitimate and urgent requests." (Read more Uber stories.)