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After Criticism, Airbnb Moves to Fix Its Discrimination Issues

Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb. AP / Jeff Chiu, File

Airbnb, the popular home sharing company that has replaced hotel stays for many seeking lodging — but has also been the subject of criticism over racial discrimination on the part of some of its hosts — announced changes Thursday to address those allegations.

Many Black Airbnb users have complained about being turned down for rentals at a higher rate than others. Numerous anecdotes on social media with the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack recounted incidents in which African-American guests were told listings were unavailable for the dates they wanted, only to see those same listings re-advertised later for the same dates.

CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky admitted that the company has been slow in addressing the problem and is taking steps to correct it.

“I take responsibility for any pain or frustration this has caused members of our community,” Chesky said in a statement. “We will not only make this right; we will work to set an example that other companies can follow.”

Airbnb is requiring that its members adhere to a more strict nondiscrimination policy that emphasizes inclusion for people looking to use the service. This comes in addition to a policy promising people who feel they have been discriminated against that they will find similar accommodations within the Airbnb network or an alternative accommodation.

The company also said that it will try to de-emphasize use of photos of potential renters, in the online registration process and include the use of instant bookings, which allows renters to book spaces immediately without approval from a host.

Many Black Airbnb users have complained about being turned down for rentals at a higher rate than others. Numerous anecdotes on social media with the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack recounted incidents in which African-American guests were told listings were unavailable for the dates they wanted, only to see those same listings re-advertised later for the same dates.

CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky admitted that the company has been slow in addressing the problem and is taking steps to correct it.

The company brought in former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Laura Murphy, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., to review complaints and develop new policies.

The task of fighting discrimination is difficult, but Airbnb is committed to continuing this work in the future, and I will personally hold them to their word,” said Murphy in her report on Airbnb’s policies.


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