Airbnb, state regulators reach agreement to combat racism

Airbnb on Thursday announced a deal with state regulators that resolves allegations of racial discrimination on the home-sharing platform.

The move comes after Airbnb in September announced new steps to combat racism, responding to complaints that went viral on social media under the #AirbnbWhileBlack hashtag. The company says Thursday’s deal continues those efforts.

Per a voluntary agreement reached with the Department of Fair Employment & Housing, Airbnb said it will allow regulators to “test” hosts who have received discrimination complaints and have three or more listings on the platform. Regulators will create dummy Airbnb profiles and pose as prospective renters to gather information about whether the host is complying with fair housing laws.

“We will continue to work collaboratively with Airbnb to prevent racial discrimination by its hosts,” DFEH Director Kevin Kish wrote in a news release. “California is committed to removing all discriminatory barriers in housing, including in new platforms and marketplaces. Fair housing testing is an important and powerful tool in enforcing fair housing laws.”

Airbnb also must gather data that shows the average acceptance rates for white, African-American, Hispanic and Asian guests, and report those stats back to regulators. The home-sharing company must explore alternative ways to display guest photos and names — diversity experts have argued the current system too easily allows hosts to reject potential guests based on their picture or name. And Airbnb must discipline guests who discriminate against guests — kicking the worst offenders off the platform.

The agreement follows a complaint filed against Airbnb in June, which kicked off a more than 10-month investigation into Airbnb’s policies.

“Fighting discrimination is fundamental to our mission and we are committed to creating a community that is open to everyone,” Airbnb General Counsel Rob Chesnut wrote in a company blog post Thursday. “Our work with the State of California builds on our ongoing efforts to fight bias and we look forward to continuing to work with state leaders to ensure the Airbnb community is fair for everyone.”

Photo: A screenshot of the Airbnb website.

 

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