Airbnb introduces new anti-discrimination policy

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Online accommodation site Airbnb is introducing a new policy to combat reports that black people are less likely to get rooms.

The move includes reducing the prominence of photos, introducing new technology, and asking users to sign an anti-discrimination agreement.

A study last year found that people with names that suggested they were black were discriminated against.

Many customers have also complained about the issue.

Using the Twitter hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack, many users said that they had been told a particular listing was unavailable, only to discover that the same places were re-advertised as available on the dates they had wanted.

In an email to users, chief executive Brian Chesky apologised for being slow to address the concerns.

“Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them,” said Mr Chesky. “Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry.”

The statement follows a report commissioned by the company from Laura Murphy, a former official with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The proposed changes include:

  • Technology that means if a host has said a particular date is unavailable, they will not be able to then offer the dates to different guests
  • Expanding the instant booking scheme, which allows guests to book rooms immediately and without specific approval from the host
  • All users will have to agree to the company’s “stronger, more detailed non-discrimination policy”
  • Provide anti-bias training for all Airbnb employees

Some critics had wanted the photo policy removed altogether, but Airbnb said it was an important security feature.

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