Online accommodation service Airbnb has unveiled a number measures to stamp out discrimination among their users.
Earlier this year the hashtag “#AirbnbWhileBlack” was being circulated to highlight people’s experience of racism while using the platform, with many black Americans in particular saying that their applications were regularly being rejected by accommodation hosts simply because of their profile photos or names.
Their claims were backed by Harvard research that shows users with “distinctly African American names are roughly 16 per cent less likely to be accepted than identical guests with distinctively White names”.
A 30-page internal report compiled by company advisor Laura Murphy notes, “An increasing number of Airbnb hosts and guests have voiced their concerns about being discriminated against when trying to book a listing because of their race, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
As a result, Airbnb have signalled plans to launch an “open doors” initiative designed to ensure that “if a guest is not able to book a listing because they have been discriminated against, Airbnb will ensure the guest finds a place to stay”.
According to the report, this will be done by finding an alternative accommodation option but it remains to be seen how successful the process will be.
In addition, the company hopes to increase diversity among their employees and raise the number of bookings that don’t require guests to be accepted by accommodation hosts before booking.
Meanwhile in a more symbolic gesture, as of November all users will be asked to accept a pledge saying they will “commit to treat all fellow members of this community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, with respect, and without judgment or bias.”
The report was issued after Ms Murphy, a former American Civil Liberties Union director, conducted a 90-day review of Airbnb’s discrimination policies.