Airbnb implements rules to fight discrimination by hosts

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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 from Airbnb.

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 or bias.”

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 can follow.”

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.

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