Airbnb commits to anti-discrimination
After receiving longstanding complaints of racial profiling, Airbnb published a report on September 8 outlining its plans to tackle discrimination.
The short-term home-rental company has been under fire ever since researchers from Harvard Business School found last year that people with names that sound African-American are 16 percent less likely to get a positive response to an Airbnb room request than people with white-sounding names, according to MIT Technology Review.
The recent anti-discrimination policy changes that Airbnb announced include training all staff on anti-bias and requiring that hosts agree to the company’s non-discrimination policy.
We The Threefold believe that this is a step in the right direction, but we believe more can be done.
Ben Edelman, the author of the Harvard Business School report, suggested that removing users’ names and profile pictures would negate discrimination. “Names and photos are not necessary for guests and hosts to do business. If guests and hosts don’t see names and photos in advance, they simply won’t be able to discriminate on that basis,” Edelman said.
We The Threefold support and celebrate diversity. We believe that Airbnb’s new strategy presents necessary reform, but we also believe that they can employ more anti-discrimination strategies than they currently propose.
We also believe that hiding users’ pictures and names is not the answer. It does not foster meaningful community, it is not honest and those who discriminated will not be swayed from their views simply because they cannot see the renting party’s photograph. Discrimination would not cease under this amendment; it would simply be postponed until after the transaction occurs.
We The Threefold believe that Airbnb should not remove users’ pictures and names. Rather, they should personalize profiles more by asking guests to add other, possibly more significant, details such as personal interests or the reason for their trip. This would allow hosts and guests to relate to one another, to understand one another and to make decisions based on each other’s interests and not the color of their skin.
We believe that Airbnb should place more emphasis on user reviews and ratings they’ve received so that individuals can be informed about prospective hosts and guests from other people’s perspectives.
We believe that Airbnb should consider making online anti-bias training mandatory for every person who applies to host to give them a clear understanding of the issue before they act on any misconceptions.
We believe that hosts have the right to reject or accommodate whomever they choose, but they should be held responsible for and penalized for discrimination. We also believe that Airbnb, as an involved party, cannot absolve themselves from discrimination disputes.
If Airbnb is truly a community marketplace like it claims on its website, then it needs to seriously and genuinely commit to creating and enacting anti-discrimination policies.