Last night, Buzzfeed's Ben Smith caused a stir when he reported on comments by Uber executive Emil Michael suggesting the company might hire opposition researchers to dig into the personal lives of journalists who criticize the company. Now Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has taken to Twitter to distance himself and his company from the comments. Yet significantly, his comments don't include any indication that Michael will be fired — or face any sort of disciplinary action.
Obviously, denouncing Michael's comments was a savvy PR move. (Michael has also said that the comments "do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach.") But the larger question is whether Kalanick will take steps to change Uber's take-no-prisoners culture.
As Matt Yglesias wrote this morning, that culture served Uber well when it was a plucky upstart trying to disrupt incumbent taxi monopolies. But Uber's a big company in its own right, now, and it needs to start thinking harder about the consequences of its actions.