Airbnb unveils new anti-discrimination policies following #AirbnbWhileBlack scandal

For months, Airbnb has been promising to fix its discrimination problem.

Executives swore over and over that they were working to address persistent complaints that minority guests were denied places to stay. The solution would come soon, they said.

That day has finally arrived.

On Thursday morning, the San Francisco company revealed a series of changes intended to prevent Airbnb landlords from denying rooms to guests based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other discriminatory factor. A 32-page report outlines the steps Airbnb intends to take or has already taken, which include: requiring landlords to agree to a revamped nondiscrimination policy, assembling a full-time team dedicated to fighting bias, developing new enforcement tools, offering unconscious bias training to landlords, promoting its “Instant Book” feature that allows guests to book rooms quickly without a landlord’s prior approval and committing to finding alternative accommodations for guests who feel they have been discriminated against.

Airbnb also has promised to experiment with making travelers’ photos a less prominent part of their user profile. Activists had called for Airbnb to remove the photos entirely — at step already taken by home-sharing competitor Innclusive, which is scheduled to launch what it has marketed as a diverse  alternative to Airbnb later this month.

And Airbnb says it will commit to diversifying its internal ranks. The company laid out a new policy requiring women and candidates from underrepresented backgrounds to be considered for every senior-level job opening.

“Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission,” co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote in a company blog post. “Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them. Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry. I take responsibility for any pain or frustration this has caused members of our community. We will not only make this right; we will work to set an example that other companies can follow.”

The policy changes are the fruit of a months-long review led by Laura Murphy, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C. legislative office.

Discrimination issues on the Airbnb platform were brought to light earlier this year when a Harvard study found that travelers with African-American-sounding names were 16 percent less likely to successfully book a place to stay on Airbnb than travelers with white-sounding names. After those findings were released, social media exploded with guests using the #AirbnbWhileBlack tag to tell stories of discrimination they experienced on the platform.

Photo: A screen shot from the Airbnb web page. (Airbnb)



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  • I Luv Fried Chicken

    I would never rent to Blacks, it would take months to get the smell of monkey out