Airbnb has rolled out a series of changes to combat bias within its community, the result of a three-month review it launched to address complaints from customers who said they had faced discrimination from hosts.
In an email to hosts and guests Thursday morning, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky called discrimination the “opposite of belonging” and said it has jeopardized the company’s core mission.
“Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry,” Chesky wrote. “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 company will introduce a number of changes, including:
- requiring all users to agree to an anti-discrimination statement
- rolling out a new company non-discrimination policy
- creating a full-time team to address bias and promote diversity
- expanded “instant booking,” which allows guests to book a property without host approval
- reducing the prominence of profile photos
- providing more support to those who say they’ve been victims of discrimination
- providing anti-discrimination training for hosts
The popular home-sharing app acts as a go-between, connecting owners who want to rent out their homes to potential guests. But the company has faced criticism for not doing more to crack down on hosts who may have discriminated against guests by denying them a chance to book their property.
At least two Harvard Business School studies have looked at potential discrimination in Airbnb. One found that guests with traditionally black-sounding names were more likely to be denied a booking than those with white-sounding names. Another that looked at earnings found that non-black hosts in New York City charged 12 percent more than black. That study prompted another which found a similar trend among Asian-American Airbnb hosts.
In June, Airbnb recruited Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington D.C., to lead a 90-day review of the company’s community.
“We’ve got great minds that we’re bringing to this problem because we want to get it right, because the sharing economy is going to just grow in size and not all of the previous civil rights laws really apply in this new economy,” Murphy told Take Two in July. “But Airbnb wants a policy to be fair and nondiscriminatory as part of its makeup. So, we’re going to go beyond what the law requires in this area.”
Murphy took feedback and recommendations from stakeholders, including hosts, victims of discrimination, employees, civil rights organizations, government regulators, elected officials, tourism executives and other expert consultants.
You can read her full 32-page report below.