Airbnb cracks down on discrimination policies


Ruby Gould and Julia Lasko, Opinions Co-Editors

Airbnb, a popular travel app which allows users to stay in private homes in any location, changed their host policies on Sept. 8 to prevent hosts from discriminating against potential guests based on race, gender, and sexual identity.

Previously, there were no regulations in place for hosts against profiling, allowing for unjust instances of prejudice to occur. For example, Rohan Gilkes, the founder of the alternative travel homestay app, Innclusive, attempted to book an Airbnb room and was told the dates were unavailable, only to later find out his Caucasian friend was able to book the room on the same dates Gilkes had requested. This is one of many stories that prompted Airbnb’s policy revision, including the addition of a date-blocking feature.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, but these regulations become complicated when companies collect employers at random in the way that Airbnb, and other recently developed apps like Uber, do. Unfortunately, most other countries lack regulations of this sort, and since Airbnb has had roaring success globally, no one can say whether laws were being broken internationally as a result of this lack of regulation.

Although we appreciate the actions taken by Airbnb to prevent further discrimination and profiling, we feel that it arrives too late, as many prospective clients have already felt the effects of the lack of regulations. Hosts still have the ability to cancel on guests after viewing their profiles, which includes an image of the potential guest, their name, and a short bio. Business officials claim the guest profiles “are essential to Airbnb’s overall mission of building a community.” These profiles, however, may still be used by hosts to discriminate against their potential guests. On the other hand, given the success of Airbnb internationally where their policies were not necessarily seen as problematic, we commend the company for taking initiative in their moral duty to defend customers against discrimination.

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