Credit: Breanna Edwards
Earlier this year, home-rental site Airbnb came under heavy scrutiny after black users of the platform took to social media to describe the discrimination they faced. Most noted that after renters saw their photos, which were included in the booking request, they were denied accommodations. The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack popped up on Twitter and went viral. The company needed to do some serious soul-searching.
Our mission is to allow people to belong anywhere … and that this issue, the issue of racial bias [or] discrimination on the platform, was a big problem and antithetical to our actual mission We needed to address this, but to be able to address it, we needed to understand it, consult with the experts [and] listen to people who’ve been on the front line for decades to help us … understand what the challenge was and then, from there, what we can do.”
Other (extremely broad) policy changes that the company plans to implement immediately include the following:
- establishing a full-time team of engineers, data scientists, researchers and designers whose sole purpose is to root out discrimination and build inclusion on the platform;
- de-emphasizing guest profiles—which can be used to discriminate based on race and/or appearance—and putting more emphasis on other aspects of the person’s profile that could be used;
- launching anti-bias training for all hosts, with the incentive of highlighting hosts who have completed the training;
- making it easier to report allegations of discrimination and get assistance if you feel discriminated against;
- requiring all users to explicitly state that they share in the community commitment, which dictates that they treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, disability, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation—without judgment or bias.
The company acknowledges that it is only scratching the surface, but the move represents Airbnb’s first steps toward fighting discrimination. It is a company that appears committed to change.
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