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Here’s Airbnb’s plan to fix its racism and discrimination problem

Source: Techcrunch

Airbnb has been under fire lately for instances of racism and discrimination exhibited by some hosts on the home-sharing platform. In order to combat that, Airbnb is making several positive changes to the platform and its company policies, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky sent in an email to hosts and guests this morning.

This includes guaranteeing short-term bookings for people who have been discriminated against, deemphasizing the use of user photos, blocking out availability if a host claims a space is taken when it really isn’t and working to increase the number of Instant Book listings, which don’t require hosts to approve specific guests, to one million by the beginning of 2017.

“Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission,” Chesky wrote. “Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them. 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’s issues with racism date back to at least late last year, when a Harvard study showed that renters with black-sounding names were less likely to receive a booking through the site. Then, in June, an Airbnb host in North Carolina canceled a booking on a black person and sent her a slew of racist insults. Shortly after that incident, Chesky said that racism is not allowed on the platform and Airbnb permanently banned the host.

Later that month, the Congressional Black Caucus urged Airbnb to take further action in addressing the issues of racism and discrimination on the company’s platform, citing how Title II of 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in places like hotels and motels on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.

Today, Laura Murphy, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington D.C. office, laid out Airbnb’s game plan for tackling instances of racism and discrimination on the platform. Airbnb has been working with Murphy since June to ensure that the company is doing everything it can to fight racism.

Product and policy changes to eradicate racist behavior

In the 32-page document, Murphy details Airbnb’s commitment and plan to implement product and policy changes across eight areas.

For one, starting Nov. 1, 2016, anyone who uses Airbnb will have to agree to a community commitment that entails treating fellow members with respect and without judgment and bias. Airbnb’s new non-discrimination policy, developed under the guidance of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who joined Airbnb in July, prohibits content that promotes things like racism and bigotry.

As part of the community commitment, Airbnb will build and release a feature by the first half of next year to address the instances of someone requesting a booking that was listed as vacant but then getting informed that it wasn’t available. Here’s a nugget from the report:

In some cases, it appears that these listings were then made available for the same trip to guests of a different race. Going forward, Airbnb will develop a feature to help prevent this from happening. If a host rejects a guest by stating that their space is not available, Airbnb will automatically block the calendar for subsequent reservation requests for that same trip.

Airbnb has also formed a team of engineers, data scientists, researchers and designers whose full-time jobs are to promote diversity and eradicate racism and bias from the Airbnb platform. One of the team’s first tasks will be experimenting with “reducing the prominence of guest photos in the booking process and enhancing other parts of host and guests profiles with objective information.”

In the event that someone is discriminated against, Airbnb is committed to ensuring that the person finds a place to stay, even if it’s not on Airbnb. For anyone who reported discrimination prior to today, Chesky said that Airbnb will help them book their next trip.

Other changes include the addition of new flagging tools so that people can quickly report discrimination or hate speech. That tool will be expanded and enhanced by January 2017. Airbnb will also offer unconscious bias training for hosts. Once hosts complete the training, Airbnb will highlight them on the platform.

“These changes are merely a first step,” Murphy wrote in the report. “Airbnb understands that no one company can eliminate racism and discrimination. Fighting bias is an ongoing task that requires constant vigilance from all of us. And there is no question that we will continue to see examples of bias and discrimination in society, the sharing economy, and Airbnb in the future. As certain product tools are built and implemented, they will need to be refined and updated. 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. We all should.”

The changes were developed in partnership with racial justice group Color of Change, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP and others.

Diversity at Airbnb

Companywide, Airbnb is 46.3 percent female, 63 percent white, 7.1 percent Latino/a and 2.9 percent black in the U.S., according to its 2015 diversity report. Today, Airbnb has set a goal to increase the percentage of employees from underrepresented groups from 9.64% to 11% by the end of 2017.

In order to try to achieve that, Airbnb says it will focus more of its recruiting efforts on people from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as from colleges with large Latino populations. Airbnb will also bring on a manager for supplier diversity and encourage more underrepresented minorities to list spaces on Airbnb.

Most importantly, Airbnb will implement a diversity rule to mandate that all senior-level positions include female applicants and applicants from underrepresented backgrounds.

“Airbnb’s stated commitment to considering diverse candidates for its own senior level positions should be considered by other Silicon Valley companies that have largely failed to reflect the diversity of the nation in their workforces,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement. “This report has not addressed every issue of concern but it is an important step in the right direction.”

Umm, we aren’t hotels. We’re homesharing.

I’ve said it before, I think discriminating is wrong, but at the same time, AirBnB is a listing site, not an employer of hosts. They have employees who work for them, but hosts are using a listing service to list their place. While I think it’s stupid to decide to list your space and then decline people based on the way they look, we’re dealing with humans sharing their homes.

I want to be able to “discriminate” if people don’t communicate respectfully or make demands of me. Are these people who are rude or demanding going to be able to turn around and say I discriminated against them? What about those “professional girls looking for a ‘quiet weekend’ with a few friends”… What good is it to try to protect your home or your family and want to take for example single female travelers only because maybe I’m a single mom or my husband is gone traveling a lot and I have extra space but need to be selective?

They should make it where pictures are not visible until after booking, etc, but Air would be a lot better served by actually investigating fraudulent and unsafe listings and making sure people who are relocated get to leave reviews and protect hosts and guests, not micromanaging supposed discrimination. Those who are actually discriminating will not make as much as those who accept all, and will get the negative reviews and those of us who accept all can earn the money. AND, there are plenty of listing sites. I know where to shop online based on what I’m looking for, Air is working so hard on forcing stuff on everyone that people are going to either leave or move on to the competition because they’re exhausted by jumping through hoops or having multiple changes forced on them. You can’t do things well by being a jack of all trades and a master of none.

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Of course they will. To you is because they are obnoxious, to them is because you are discriminating.

Here is one blunt definition of discrimination:
"In human social affairs, discrimination is treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit."

You, like many others are looking at the last part; others (and your Government btw) only see the first part. There lies the dilemma.

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And this is precisely why I like the idea of not having individual photos until after booking. To me it doesn’t matter anyway. Because what matters is communication and being respectful of the host’s place, etc.

AirBnB is NOT A HOTEL. If a “guest” wants to party or mess up a place, go to a hotel. If you want quiet, personalized spaces, stay in someone’s home. If you want something specific, look for a listing that fits your needs and be understanding of a host’s needs as you are hoping that they’ll be understanding of yours and find a mutually beneficial stay.

All this discrimination nonsense is just a guise to get more cheap listings and more money. They can say and do and regulate whatever they want, and the site will get filled with more hotels and commercial properties who lack the individual touch and personalization that Air claims they are offering. They just need to figure out what exactly they are offering, because they’re offering one thing and then making policies that make those very listings plan to look elsewhere. Are they wanting hotels or are they wanting hosts? That’s the question.

Don’t get me wrong, I 100% empathize with people who have been turned away because of the way they look. But as someone who worked in human resources and hiring for a decade, we turned away plenty of people with poor grammar and demands and mother’s calling and asking for their kids to get an interview who then tried to turn it around and say we discriminated against them. Seriously, where did common sense go? We’ve lost the idea that you go to an interview dressing one step better than you’d be expected to when working there. Why bother spell and grammar checking your application or resume? Why spend the time to network and make calls and go ask for interviews if you can have your mom do it for you while you play video games in her basement?

Because that does translate into booking stays with people. This millennial generation I’m in has so few people who were taught to be responsible and respectful. It’s all about me and how I feel and who cares how I present myself publicly if I can turn it around and make myself a victim?

We NEEDED the civil rights movement. And we still have strides to make. But now we have people who cry discrimination because they’ve made choices about the way they present themselves or are simply too lazy to present themselves well who are making themselves a victim. For example, my brother can’t figure out why he can’t get a job. Of course it’s not that he sat on unemployment living above my mom’s garage for a year without actually looking for a job but spent all his money stretching his earlobes out and getting huge tattoos (I have tattoos BTW) and growing out a ponytail and wears torn jeans to job interviews that my mom arranged for him. But I can’t tell him that because he’s a victim from losing his last job because of a failed drug test because he was self-medicating his PTSD instead of getting the actual help the military offered him. He’s MADE himself a “victim”. Ugh.

Meanwhile we’ve got highly educated minorities who have truly been discriminated against. And not only are they rightfully pointing out the discrimination but they are turning around and making competition to fix the error. And they’re doing it the right way instead of lip-service and forcing unenforceable policies on innocent hosts while still hiding customer service numbers and doing nothing to actually protect guests from shady listings or actually verifying identities.

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Good post lady @Sarah_Warren. To me the US is suffering from an acute case of paranoia, where so many political-correct and social-conformity forces are at play all at once. I am absolutely amazed more of its citizens are not in mental institutions.

In seems like it has this ‘PC Police’ everywhere running around and carrying rolls of different labels (bigot, racist, etc) dying to stick one of them in someone’s forehead the nano-second one expresses the slightest non-PC idea.

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I’m a millenial as well, and have complaints about my own generation (leaving wet towels on wood furniture!), but I think entitlement is cross-generational. Here in the states, our millenial generation does not have access to a lot of the post-WWII gains that helped (white) families do so well in the 1950s and 60s: high wages, heavily subsidized home loans, very cheap college, etc. I know you and I have worked very hard to get where we are at and own our own homes, but I think as millenials we’ve been up against tougher financial odds than our parents were.

Speaking of generations: your story of the mothers calling to get their sons jobs reminded me of my in-laws. My father-in-law (born in the 40s) is always out of work and between jobs, and my mother-in-law does all his job applications and arranges his interviews for him, and even calls and networks on his behalf! When he is laid off from jobs, she calls it age discrimination, which it probably is… combined with his personality traits that make him a challenging employee. I think when you’re in a minority, such as a senior, unfortunately you have to be the best at your job to protect yourself from discrimination, whereas someone in the majority is more likely to skate along being mediocre.

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Seems like Airbnb is serving itself by pushing Instant Book in response to discrimination.

I used Instant Book for about six months. I was not pleased with the results. I wasn’t able to weed out the guests who wouldn’t respect me and my home.

So Airbnb’s solution to guests dealing with shitty hosts is to pressure hosts to deal with shitty guests at a much higher rate? That’s not a way to solve the problem.

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Amen! I truly believe there are a some people being discriminated against. We live in a world with human beings in it. But forcing shitty guests on good hosts does nothing to better those being truly discriminated against. And having your feelings hurt is vastly different than being discriminated against.

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Whoa. I’m not debating whether or not people are being discriminated against because I know for damn sure they are. I would not go there.

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[quote=“Sarah_Warren, post:3, topic:7907, full:true”]
I’ve said it before, I think discriminating is wrong, but at the same time, AirBnB is a listing site, not an employer of hosts. [/quote]

This is what irritates me.

One one hand they are suing San Francisco (and threatening NY do do the same), claiming that they are not responsible if the host is doing something illegal.
On the other hand when it comes to racism, they suddenly feel responsible.

I think they have some smart spindoctors, and use the racism card to increase bookings in order to make more revenue. A booking will generate revenue, they do not care if it is canceled at a later time. Because either the host or the guest will pay.

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Welcome to the true nature of Airbnb. I started with avid enthusiasm which dimmed when I had to take a $100 host cancellation penalty for refusing to let a guy with a creepy google profile book here and I realized they do not do criminal background checks. If you want to continue you’ll need to learn to never allow guests to book on someone else’ account, never allow more than 1 person at a time (you might just specify women only or man with woman only or something)…even so risk is actually insanely high which is WHY homeowner’s insurance won’t cover your home if you’re doing this. This is not clear to most people who start an Airbnb – meanwhile Airbnb rakes in the dough along with the learning curve of new schmucks opening their homes every day.

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Funny moment.

Got a request from an Indian guy yesterday. I accepted but he did not book.
This night I got another Indian that booked the same room trough IB.

Now the first Indian is pissed, because he cannot book, and accused me of blocking the dates because he is Indian… :unamused:

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I was just rereading this thread. I did want to make sure you know I wasn’t directing my comment at you saying that you didn’t think people were being discriminated against. I was just continuing my rant against the new Air policies of spinning discrimination into more money.

And @Chris, that is hilarious. Did you message him back?

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