Coronavirus: Uber, Lyft Riders of Asian Descent Report Driver Discrimination

The rapid international spread of the potentially deadly Coronavirus is causing panic and discrimination among Uber and Lyft drivers in the United States.

According to CNBC, racial bias incidents related to ride-sharing platforms Lyft and Uber, these incidents appear to be happening despite their efforts to curb discriminatory behavior. One member of a Facebook group with more than 12,000 Lyft and Uber drivers noted that at least five posts per day mention the virus. The member, who shared screenshots with CNBC, said that many drivers were saying they did not want to pick up riders of Asian descent and that it was not safe to do so.

Incidents have been recorded in San Francisco and Seattle, areas of the country with large Asian decent populations. CNBC did not report any specific incidents in New York City.

A CNBC search found dozens of tweets involving riders and drivers reluctant to share a car with a person of Asian appearance. Many of these tweets were posted in the past week, as fears have been stoked by reports that there are now confirmed cases of the virus in more than half a dozen countries.

Lyft spokesperson Dana Davis said in a statement that the company takes “any allegation of discrimination very seriously.” Davis added that Lyft is “monitoring official updates on the global outbreak closely, and taking our cues from international and domestic public health experts.”

“Our priority is to keep our riders, drivers and employees safe, with as little disruption as possible. We will continue to evaluate the situation as it unfolds, and base our policies and recommendations on official guidance,” she said.

Lyft did not respond to CNBC about whether the company would be rolling out any broader policies to combat discrimination, including public health resources and education. Instead, they are asking riders to share their experiences with their safety team.

Uber referred CNBC to its community guidelines that drivers are required to acknowledge. Those guidelines specify that drivers should “foster positive interactions” with people who “might not look like you or share your beliefs.” It also said it has a portal for public health authorities, and that it is in regular contact with these groups.

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