Real Estate & Property Law

Facing a bias suit and criticism, Airbnb takes steps to curb discrimination by its hosts

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Airbnb is trying to reduce bias by its hosts after a lawsuit and a study alleged that blacks who try to rent through the website are experiencing discrimination.

In a report released on Thursday, Airbnb says it will ask its hosts beginning on Nov. 1 to pledge not to discriminate, report Bloomberg News, (sub. req.), and the New York Times.

The pledge asks property owners to commit that they won’t discriminate based on race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age.

The company will also:

• Reduce the prominence of guest photos during the booking process.

• Encourage instant bookings that don’t involve host approval of the guest.

• Assemble engineers, data scientists and others to find patterns of bias.

• Route concerns of bias to trained specialists and ensure that guests experiencing bias find a place to stay.

Airbnb had hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to help it formulate the new policy. The report was written by Laura Murphy, the former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C., legislative office.

The report follows a study by Harvard University researchers that found guests with African-American-sounding names had more difficulty renting through Airbnb.

A potential renter, Gregory Selden, alleged in a lawsuit filed in May that he experienced discrimination when trying to book a room through Airbnb. The company says its mandatory arbitration clause requires dismissal of the case.

Related article: “Does Airbnb have a legal responsibility to end bias by its hosts?”

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