Does Airbnb have a a discrimination problem? It appears that way after 25-year-old Greg Selden of Richmond, Va. tweeted that he was rejected by a host based on the color of his skin and provided evidence to back up the claim.
Last year, while planning a trip to Philadelphia, Selden was rejected by an Airbnb host.
At first, Selden didn't think anything of the rejection but he noticed the place was still available hours after he was turned down. Suspicious, Selden created two fake profiles and used photos of white men as the profile pictures. He applied again using these accounts and both were accepted immediately.
Selden confronted the host after his fake profiles were accepted.
Selden told Buzzfeed News that he understands an Airbnb host has the right to deny strangers into their home, but not for the reason he experienced. "I just wish the determining factor had to do with something other than my skin color," Selden said.
Selden is not the first person to experience discrimination on Airbnb and many shared their own experiences using the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack
23-year-old Quirtina Crittenden created the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack after noticing how often she was rejected on the site. "The hosts would always come up with excuses like, 'Oh, someone actually just booked it' or 'Oh, some of my regulars are coming in town, and they're going to stay there,'" Crittenden told NPR. "But I got suspicious when I would check back like days later and see that those dates were still available."
Crittenden ran her own experiment. She shortened her name to Tina and changed her profile photo to a city landscape. "Ever since I changed my name and my photo, I've never had any issues on Airbnb," Crittenden said.
A recent study from Harvard Business School demonstrates that Crittenden and Selden's experiences are not atypical. The 2016 study found requests from people with African-American-sounding names were 16 percent less likely to be accepted than those with white-sounding names. The study also found discrimination from guests, as black hosts earn less money on Airbnb.
Airbnb told BuzzFeed News, "[T]he discrepancy was likely because Selden, at first, reserved one night—and then reserved two nights with the fake accounts." Airbnb says that hosts typically do not accept one-night reservations.
Selden responded to the site's claim and said he did everything exactly the same on all three profiles. "I saw the update from the AirBnB spokesperson," Selden wrote in a direct message to Buzzfeed News. "But I also requested it for the same dates. One night, under the other profile."