Airbnb on Thursday updated its nondiscrimination policy,
which prohibits hosts from declining a stay request based on race,
ethnicity, origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Also, hosts aren’t allowed to post any statements indicating
a preference for or against guests based on their race, ethnicity, origin,
gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Hosts who violate the policy risk being suspended or removed
Airbnb CEO: We will make this right
Brian Chesky sent an email to Airbnb hosts and guests outlining efforts to fight discrimination by hosts. Read the letter in its entirety here.
Additionally, on Oct. 1 Airbnb will debut its “Open Doors” program,
in which a team within the company will arrange bookings at “a similar place to
stay” on Airbnb for people alleging that a host discriminated against them.
As of Nov. 1, all hosts must agree to the Airbnb Community
Commitment, which requires hosts to “commit to treat all fellow members of this
community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation or age, with respect and without judgment
By early next year, Airbnb will broaden the availability of
its Instant Book feature, in which guests can book accommodations without
having to be subsequently reviewed for approval by the host. About 1 million of
Airbnb’s 2 million-plus worldwide listings will have the Instant Book feature
by Jan. 1.
And, as soon as early next year Airbnb will add a feature in
which its system will automatically block calendar availability dates of a host
who has already rejected a stay request for those specific dates.
Finally, Airbnb says it will have a full-time team dedicated
to fight host bias. The company also vowed to broaden its hiring pool to
include more women and candidates from “underrepresented backgrounds.”
Notably, Airbnb stopped short of removing guest photos —
which some have said contributes greatly to discrimination by Airbnb hosts —
and instead will modify its accommodations-request system by the end of the
year for the purpose of “reducing the prominence of guest photos in the booking
process.” Instead, the system will better feature “objective information” such
as trip details.
“Profile photos are essential to Airbnb’s overall mission of
building a community and creating durable, lasting relationships between host
and guests that continue long after a reservation has ended,” wrote Laura
Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington D.C.
Legislative Office, who authored the 32-page report released Thursday that
outlined her findings within the company and the Airbnb’s policy changes.
The policy changes are the culmination of an effort that
began in early June, when Airbnb said it would address allegations that some of
its hosts racially discriminated when renting out their homes. That
announcement came five months after a Harvard Business School study was
released that found prospective guests with “distinctly African-American names”
were about 16% less likely to have their reservation requests granted by Airbnb
hosts than guests with “distinctly white names.”
Such issues have spurred black entrepreneurs to launch
Noirbnb.com and Innclusive.com.
Airbnb in July hired former U.S. attorney general Eric
Holder to consult on the company’s anti-discrimination policy following reports
that hosts discriminated against minorities.
“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,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote in a note to
Airbnb hosts that was posted on Airbnb’s blog Thursday. “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
Airbnb officials met with the NAACP, National Urban League,
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Rainbow/PUSH
Coalition to help craft its recommendations and policies, Murphy wrote.