Airbnb is taking steps to fight one of its most prevalent problems – discrimination of guests based on race, sexuality and/or religion. The company released a 32 page non-discrimination policy report highlighting ways it is actively trying to eliminate bias on its platform.
“Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote in an email to Airbnb users Thursday. “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.”
Airbnb is adding a full-time product team of engineers, data scientists, researchers, and designers whose focus will be fighting bias. That team will re-evaluate how photos are used on the platform, which some have criticized as the first source of discrimination.
Airbnb will also make anti-bias training available to hosts, adding that it has overhauled enforcement protocol and will remove listings that violate its new nondiscrimination policy — and suspend or remove hosts from the platform who violate that policy.
The company also acknowledged concerns over the lack of diversity among its employees and said it “may have been slow” to address discrimination as a result. Last October, Airbnb said its workforce was 63 percent white, 22 percent Asian, 7.1 percent Hispanic or Latino and 2.9 percent black.
The number of listings available for Instant Book will increase as instant booking doesn’t allow hosts to reject individual guests.
“We would like to think that decades after these forms of overt biases were in place and sanctioned by law, in 2016 a company like Airbnb would not have to deal with these problems,” said Laura Murphy, a senior advisor to Airbnb and former head of the American Civil Liberties Union legislative. “Unfortunately, that is not the case: Airbnb has seen how African Americans and other people of color have been discriminated against when trying to find a place to stay.”
The report included participation from hosts, past victims of discrimination, Airbnb employees, civil rights groups, federal and state agencies, elected officials and tourism executives.
What are your thoughts on Airbnb’s attempt at addressing their most pervasive problems?