Mayor Sadiq Khan says new Uber CEO shows 'humility' in London ban fight

Sadiq Khan calls out tech platforms at SXSW

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has praised the "humility" and "more sensible approach" of the new Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi in fighting the London ad ban, compared to his tantrum-prone predecessor.

Taking to the stage in a full auditorium at the SXSW festival in Austin, Khan – the first elected official from the UK to ever deliver a keynote at the event – revealed Khosrowshahi is meeting the Transport for London (TfL) commission with "humility" and an appreciation for why Uber didn't see its license to operate in the city renewed last year.

"He gets it; whereas the previous guy didn't," said Khan.

Khosrowshahi replaced former chief Travis Kalanick last June amid a swathe of problems in the company, including a number of cities alongside London clamping down on Uber's right to operate over issues such as worker's rights and the general public's safety.

Khan backed TfL's decision to revoke Uber's license last September, a controversial move that shocked businesses and led many critics to suggest he was doing so to curry favour with black cab drivers around his reelection.

Khan denied this, saying he took a hard line to show that the questions facing Uber could no longer be ignored.

"It's unacceptable for platforms in the quick pursuit of shares to set a price too low to adequately reward workers and at the same time incentivise them to work like full time employees," he said.

"Companies that behave in this way aren't genuine peer to peer platforms, they are simply companies with an app. There's nothing wrong with this, but we can't confuse our thinking that because a business is smart, distributive, popular and has a really neat app that it somehow has a right to behave in a different regulatory status to local laws."

He credited "the more sensible approach of the new CEO" in dealing with Uber's potential ban from the capital. He, unlike Kalanick, is looking at the bigger picture beyond the "army of lawyers and PR experts [hired] to turn the public against regulation," though he didn't go into detail about the current state of conversation between the company and regulators.

But Uber wasn't the only tech giant to be called out in Khan's speech. He also warned the likes of Twitter, Google and Facebook that they must take more responsibility for how their technology affects society, or face harsher penalties.

Khan read out six tweets he'd received in recent weeks, which ranged from calling him a terrorist to violent threats.

"What we're hearing is that they're starting to get it. They understand the challenges. They recognise they have to address the concerns we have and that they can't feel good about the adverse consequences," he added.

"And I'm not threatening but if they don't, don't be surprised if we go down the legislation route," citing Germany as an example of a country that has imposed harsh fines for failing to deal with issues such as hate speech, fake news and illegal material.

But he also stressed that governments would also change, saying for too long politicians have been "passive while revolution has happened around them".

"There's been a dereliction of duty among politicians and policy makers to ensure that growth in technology is steered in a direction that benefits us all rather than place too much faith in the vision of founders," he said.

"Rather than playing companies for innovating ahead of regulation, politicians must fix things before the regulation becomes out of date."

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