Airbnb announces change to booking policy to avoid outcry over continuing racial discrimination – ThinkProgress

In an ongoing effort to atone and absolve itself from recent allegations of racial discrimination, Airbnb, the online home-sharing platform, announced earlier this week that it no longer allows rental hosts to request a guest photo before accepting a reservation contract.

While Airbnb currently does not require guest photos for the millions of individual and private transactions made around the world, many hosts do require foreigners to present photo ID as a prerequisite for entering into a rental agreement. But under the new policy, Airbnb will allow hosts to request a photo only after accepting the reservation.

“We have listened to our community, and although most customers provide a photo, some customers have told us that they don’t want to share a photo of themselves when booking,” the San-based company said. Francisco in a press release Monday. “We also recognize that concerns have been expressed about the potential for misuse of the photos in a way that violates our non-discrimination policy.”

Following a series of incidents and lawsuits Alleging racial discrimination from some of its hosts, Airbnb has launched an aggressive and public campaign to change its image. The company announced last year at the NAACP convention in Baltimore that it was work with local branches of the civil rights organization attract members of minority communities as hosts and guests; as well as increase the racial diversity of its workforce from 9.6 percent to 11 percent by the end of last year. Previously, Airbnb executives hired former United States Attorney General Eric Holder to help them create a non-discrimination policy that all participating hosts and guests must agree to support before using the site.

We also recognize that concerns have been raised about the potential for misuse of photos in a way that violates our non-discrimination policy.

In less than a decade of operations, Airbnb, which was founded in 2008 and currently operates in more than 50,000 cities in 191 countries and generated a whopping $ 2.7 billion in revenue, has been the target of scathing gunfire from racial minorities who have complained to have been prevented from registering or outright refused to hosts who did not have I don’t want them as guests in their homes.

Under the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title II – Public housing, anyone who hosts the public is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin. But a dizzying array of stories, which spoke of Airbnb hosts flouting this law by dissuading blacks and other members of minority groups from applying, or turning away from entering or sleeping in their homes, sparked a public outcry. outraged – with many such replies organized on Twitter under the hashtag online #AirbnbWhileBlack.

In its press release announcing the changes, Airbnb officials acknowledged that its revised photo policy is a middle ground between demands by civil rights groups who believe that requiring a photo to reserve a photo room facilitates discrimination based on the race and desires of rental hosts who want to know more about the people who come to their home.

“[H]Hosts told us they value profile photos because they can help hosts and guests get to know each other before a trip begins and help hosts recognize guests when they check in, ”the statement said. “Additionally, we saw how photos can be a useful tool to build trust and promote community. We want to balance these concerns.

Under the revised policy, which the company says will take effect in the coming months:

  • If a traveler chooses to provide a profile photo, that profile photo will not be displayed to the host as part of the reservation process until the reservation is confirmed.
  • Airbnb will give hosts the option to require travelers to provide a profile photo prior to booking, which will only be visible after the host accepts the booking request.
  • In the interest of fairness, hosts should proactively activate their photo request before receiving a booking request, even though they will only see the photo after the process is complete.
  • If a host requests a profile photo, Airbnb will invite travelers to upload one to their Airbnb profile before they can request to book that host’s particular listing and the photo will not be shown to the host until after booking. confirmed.
  • If a host cancels a reservation after seeing a guest’s photo, that guest will have an easier way to complain to Airbnb, and hosts who violate the policy may be permanently banned from using the site. .

Almost immediately after Airbnb announced the photo policy change, Kristen Clarke, chair and executive director of the Washington-based Civil Rights Lawyers Committee, praised the company for took this step and urged the cabinet to do even more to tackle housing discrimination.

“Airbnb is finally learning what many of its sharing economy peers have long understood: When profile photos play a major role in the sharing economy, racial bias is rampant,” Clarke said in a statement. “While Airbnb’s policy change is a positive step, the company needs to do more to truly advance racial equity. In particular, by performing matched pair audit tests with large-scale hosts that rent many units, Airbnb could ease the burden on victims of discrimination, both of knowing that they have been victimized and of browsing. in the company’s complaint process.

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