Airbnb nondiscrimination rules announced in new report

Airbnb  users
Airbnb users “must agree to a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy,” promising to treat all users of the site “with respect, and without judgment or bias,” effective Nov. 1, 2016. Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

After a stinging social media campaign in which people of color detailed their experiences being denied lodgings by Airbnb hosts, the home sharing service has announced new nondiscrimination rules in a sweeping 32-page report.

The new rules will be emailed to all guests and hosts, Airbnb CEO and cofounder Brian Chesky said in a statement Thursday.

Beginning Nov. 1, everyone who uses Airbnb “must agree to a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy,” promising to treat all users of the site “with respect, and without judgment or bias.”

Airbnb has also hired a “permanent, full-time product team” of “engineers, data scientists, researchers and designers whose sole purpose is to advance belonging and inclusion and to root out bias.”

The website also pledged to implement its own “diversity rule” mandating that all candidate pools for senior-level positions include women and candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, and promised to expand its reach to minority-owned businesses and under-represented populations.

Implementation of Airbnb’s “instant booking” service, which permits lodgings to be booked immediately without hosts approving a specific guest, will also be accelerated. The service will also experiment with “reducing the prominence of guest photos” while emphasizing objective information about users, and another program will train hosts on how to better fight bias.

If someone experiences discrimination while using the platform, Airbnb will find the guest another place to stay in a program it calls Open Doors.

The new rules exhibit cultural competency and a willingness to take accountability, said Isaiah R. Wilson, external affairs manager for the National Black Justice Coalition. “But time will show us how serious they are about implementing these measures for diversity and inclusion,” he said. Wilson noted he had used Airbnb twice. “I loved it! But both those times my hosts were African American.”

“At the heart of our mission is the idea that people are fundamentally good and every community is a place where you can belong. . . . Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission,” said Chesky.

Airbnb has hired Laura Murphy, the former head of the ACLU’s Washington D.C. legislative office, and consulted with other prominent experts, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., before drafting its report, which Chesky said went beyond requirements of the law. “These steps are just the beginning, not the end, of our efforts to combat bias and discrimination,” Chesky said.