After much criticism that its popular home-sharing service has a discrimination problem, Airbnb says it’s making some changes.
In a 32-page report, Airbnb, based in San Francisco, said that it would institute a new nondiscrimination policy that goes beyond what is outlined in several anti-discrimination laws and that it would ask all users to agree to a “community commitment” starting on Nov. 1. The commitment asks people to work with others who use the service, “regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age.”
This comes after black Airbnb users vented their frustration of being rejected for a booking date — only to see the same place get listed once again — spawning the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack on Twitter. And those frustrations were borne out in a study that sent 6,400 requests to AirBnb hosts in five large U.S. cities; the requests were identical except for the customer's name. As the Hidden Brain podcast reported, "requests with African-American sounding names were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than their white-sounding counterparts."
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The company also says it is actively asking its hosts to sign a more detailed nondiscrimination policy; will increase the number of available listings to be booked immediately, without prior approval of specific guests, to 1 million by January 2017; and will continue to consult with anti-bias advisers, including academics who specialize in diversity research, civil rights activists and lawyers and even the former US Attorney General Eric Holder.
While this only a small part of a big battle with fighting discrimination, we’re glad to see Airbnb stepping up.