Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky sent an email to all its hosts and guests this morning. This is an effort by the CEO to combat the recent instances of racism and discrimination reported by a few guests from some Airbnb homes. The company is making a few positive changes internally as well as towards its customers in this regard. Some of these are guaranteeing short-term bookings for people who have been discriminated against, deemphasizing the use of user photos, blocking out availability if a host claims a space is taken when it really isn’t and working to increase the number of Instant Book listings, which don’t require hosts to approve specific guests, to one million by the beginning of 2017. This sure looks promising.
Chesky being the gentleman that he is, wrote in his mail , “Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardizes this core mission.Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them. Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry. I take responsibility for any pain or frustration this has caused members of our community. We will not only make this right; we will work to set an example that other companies can follow.”
This issue dates back to last year when a Harvard study brought to front that renters with black-sounding names were less likely to receive a booking through the site. Another incident a host in North Carolina canceled a booking on a black person and sent her a slew of racist insults. Taking responsibility, Airbnb blocked the host right away.
Airbnb has been working with Laura Murphy,former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington D.C. , since June to ensure that the company is doing everything it can to fight racism. Previously, the Congressional Black Caucus urged Airbnb took further action in addressing the issues of racism and discrimination on the company’s platform, citing how Title II of 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in places like hotels and motels on the basis of race, color, religion or national origin.
How is Airbnb going to do this?
A 32 page document has been released by Murphy which describes the policies and changes that the company needs to bring about to eradicate the problem from its roots.
From Nov. 1, 2016, anyone who uses Airbnb will have to agree to a community commitment that entails treating fellow members with respect and without judgment and bias. Airbnb’s new non-discrimination policy, developed under the guidance of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who joined Airbnb in July, prohibits content that promotes things like racism and bigotry.
If any such incident is reported , the document states the following to deal with it -In some cases, it appears that these listings were then made available for the same trip to guests of a different race. Going forward, Airbnb will develop a feature to help prevent this from happening. If a host rejects a guest by stating that their space is not available, Airbnb will automatically block the calendar for subsequent reservation requests for that same trip.
The company has formulated a team of engineers, data scientists, researchers and designers whose full-time jobs are to promote diversity and eradicate racism from the platform completely. One of their first jobs would be to reduce the prominence of the guests photos and highlight more of the other relavant information.
Taking their comitment to another level, Airbnb promises to find a place to stay to anyone who books on Airbnb and cant find a place, even it has to be outside Airbnb hotels.
Any complaints registeed before this date, Airbnb will help those people book their next trip.
On the website level, The company has added small flagging tools that help you report any kind of discriminatoion or hate speech.
Airbnb will also be doing a training cource with its hosts and on its successful completion their properties will be highlighted on the website.
Chesky further writes, “Airbnb understands that no one company can eliminate racism and discrimination. Fighting bias is an ongoing task that requires constant vigilance from all of us. And there is no question that we will continue to see examples of bias and discrimination in society, the sharing economy, and Airbnb in the future. As certain product tools are built and implemented, they will need to be refined and updated. The task of fighting discrimination is difficult, but Airbnb is committed to continuing this work in the future, and I will personally hold them to their word. We all should.”
The changes were developed in partnership with racial justice group Color of Change, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP and others.
What is happening inside the company?
At present, Airbnb is 46.3 percent female, 63 percent white, 7.1 percent Latino/a and 2.9 percent black in the U.S… Today, Airbnb has set a goal to increase the percentage of employees from underrepresented groups from 9.64% to 11% by the end of 2017.
It plans to do so by hiring more people from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as from colleges with large Latino populations. Going ahead Airbnb will implement a diversity rule to mandate that all senior-level positions include female applicants and applicants from underrepresented backgrounds.
“Airbnb’s stated commitment to considering diverse candidates for its own senior level positions should be considered by other Silicon Valley companies that have largely failed to reflect the diversity of the nation in their workforces,” Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement. “This report has not addressed every issue of concern but it is an important step in the right direction.”