The headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg, AP)
Washington - Uber hit back against a news story alleging that scores of passengers had filed rape complaints, releasing data showing only a small fraction of the alleged number of sex assault reports.
In a blog post, the global ridesharing giant said its analysis showed a "legitimate claim of sexual assault" in 170 cases between December 2012 and August 2015.
The number of alleged rapes in the report was five, amounting to one in every 3.3 million trips or a ratio of 0.0000009% of rides, Uber said.
Uber's safety team released the figures after a BuzzFeed report based on an analysis of screenshots said internal reports showed "sexual assault" in 6 160 cases and "rape" cited in 5 827 incidents.
Uber said the BuzzFeed figures were "highly misleading" because riders "routinely misspell 'rate' as "rape" or use the word in another context such as "you raped my wallet".
The databased cited in the report also extrapolated "rape" from any names or email addresses with those letter in that order - such as "Don Draper", and also used discussions about non-Uber rides and unsubstantiated media reports, according to the Uber blog.
BuzzFeed on Sunday published its report based on an analysis of screenshots it said were provided by a former Uber customer service representative.
Uber, which has expanded to hundreds of cities worldwide, has been stepping up its safety efforts since reports of a rape by a driver in India.
It said its safety team "exists to reduce safety incidents... because even one incident is too many", and that its efforts include investments in technology which allows tracking of rides and a "robust system of background checks".
"Sadly, no means of transportation is 100% safe today," the Uber blog said.
"Accidents and incidents do happen. It's why we are working to build an exceptional customer support team that can handle problems when they occur, including working with law enforcement."
The blog post, which was addressed to BuzzFeed, said Uber would not allow the news website to review safety data because it would be "a serious breach of our riders' and drivers' privacy".