Ads for Me but not for Thee—How Chicago is Stifling Free Speech for Uber Drivers

Illinois resident Trish Page’s side hustle nearly cost her $500 thanks to a blatantly biased city ordinance.

Page is a full-time face painter. Like many of her fellow small business owners, she advertises her business on her car.

That’s what got her in trouble with Chicago. Page drives with Uber in her spare time to earn some extra cash. While dropping off a passenger at the airport, she was pulled over and given a $500 ticket for illegally advertising.

Chicago has a city ordinance that bans for-hire drivers from putting ads on their car. According to the city, the regulations are in place for traffic safety, aesthetics and passenger comfort.

But if banning ads on for-hire vehicles is essential, why are taxi cabs in Chicago covered in ads for the latest TV show or retirement fund?

Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) the ad-banning rule applies only to ridesharing cars, not to cabs. It’s almost as if the ordinance was created to give taxi companies an unfair advantage by restricting the First Amendment rights of ridesharing drivers.

Now Page is fighting back. She’s joined a lawsuit with Vugo, a startup that helps rideshare drivers earn extra cash by displaying advertising, news and games on tablets in their cars. They’re pretty hopeful—the company just won a lawsuit against New York City that overturned the ban on rideshare advertising.

Page and Vugo are right—cities shouldn’t be picking favorites when it comes to transportation companies, and they certainly shouldn’t be violating peoples’ freedom of speech to do so.

Author Generation Opportunity

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