By September 23, 2016 0 Comments Read More →

New Anti-Racial Discrimination Policies Incorporated in Online Housing Rental Transactions

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03: The Airbnb logo is displayed on a computer screen on August 3, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Online housing rental company attempts to remedy discrimination against some of its users.

Airbnb, the online company that, for a fee, connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for housing accommodations, received months of complaints from its African-American users that housing hosts discriminated against them. The company hired Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General, and Laura Murphy, former head of The Washington, D.C. American Civil Liberties Union, to review the complaints and develop new policies.

Numerous incidents occurred in which African-American guests were told listings were not available for the dates they wanted, only to see those same listings re-advertised later for the same dates. Other users reported hosts harassing them and calling them racial slurs. Another African-American user complained that he was denied housing when he used his real name, but was accepted when he created profiles imitating white men. The user filed a lawsuit against Airbnb claiming that the company violated the Fair Housing Act. Airbnb apologized for its slowness in responding to these accusations and announced new policies that are designed to protect against discrimination.

Beginning October 1, 2016, Airbnb will find comparable accommodations for any guest who reports discrimination in booking a listing, having a booking canceled, or in interacting with a host. Starting November 1, 2016, agreement to a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy will be required of all users. During the first half of 2017, Airbnb will begin automatically blocking future reservations for dates where a host has told someone that a property was not available.  By January 31, 2017, anti-bias training will be provided to all Airbnb employees and to those who list their homes on the service; those who violate the company’s code of conduct will be suspended.

Other changes include an expansion of Airbnb’s “Instant Book” program in which homes are booked immediately without approval from the host; devising ways to reduce the prominence of photos in the booking process; and organizing a team to fight bias and promote diversity.

 “These steps are just the beginning, not the end, of our effort to combat bias and discrimination,” said Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky. “Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them.”

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