Airbnb has a new plan to combat discriminatory practices, the company revealed Thursday. This year an Airbnb guest exposed discrimination within the sharing app when he was able to book a place he was previously denied at under a fake white profile. The guest would later go on to sue Airbnb.
Airbnb announced a "community commitment," reported The New York Times, in which the company will "institute a new nondiscrimination policy that goes beyond what is outlined in several anti-discrimination laws" and "experiment with reducing the prominence of user photos, which have helped signal race and gender."
The changes come a result of a Harvard study's findings, the previously mentioned lawsuit, and other vocalizations of discrimination within the service on social media under the hashtag #Airbnbwhileblack, in addition to an internal 32-page discrimination report's findings. As a result of the findings, The Wall Street Journal reported Airbnb will "create a team of engineers, researchers and others devoted to fighting bias and offer sensitivity training to hosts." Airbnb said it would "publicly acknowledge" hosts who complete the training, though it's not stated what that exactly means.
Another solution Airbnb presented was a move toward pushing “Instant bookings,” where a guest can book a place to stay without needing the host's approval, but as SFist notes, Airbnb hasn't provided a solution to a host canceling a guest's reservation on account of discrimination. Airbnb also announced tools for guests to flag instances of discrimination will be "expanded" and "enhanced" by January 2017, reported TechCrunch.
In an email to guests and hosts Thursday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said there was "zero tolerance" for "bias" and "discrimination." "Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission... Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them," wrote Chesky. "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."
The previously mentioned Harvard study found people with African-American sounding names are 16 percent less likely to be accepted at an Airbnb compared to someone with a white-sounding name. The study also found discrimination affects black hosts, who end up earning less than their white counterparts.