The sharing economy has encountered a few bumps in the road recently. The biggest home sharing company, Airbnb, has been in the crosshairs lately with complaints about owners refusing guests based on race, age and gender. It has even prompted a lawsuit against the company.
To counteract the negative publicity, the San Francisco-based company enlisted Laura Murphy and Associates to compile a report and help formulate an anti-bias policy.
Murphy, a former director of the ACLU, and Airbnb put together a team of experts, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to draft the 32-page anti-bias report, “Airbnb’s Work to Fight Discrimination and Build Inclusion.”
“There have been too many unacceptable instances of people being discriminated against on the Airbnb platform because of who they are or what they look like,” said Murphy in the report.
Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, wrote in a letter to Airbnb hosts and guests that accompanied the report, that he strongly condemns any intolerance in the company.
“At the heart of our mission is the idea that people are fundamentally good and every community is a place where you can belong. We don’t say this because it sounds nice. It’s the goal that everyone at Airbnb works towards every day – because we’ve all seen how when we live together, we better understand each other,” wrote Chesky.
“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.”
The letter went on to say: “Beginning November 1, everyone who uses Airbnb must agree to a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy. We aren’t just asking you to check a box associated with a long legal document. We’re asking everyone to agree to something we’re calling the Airbnb Community Commitment, which says:
We believe that no matter who you are, where you are from, or where you travel, you should be able to belong in the Airbnb community. By joining this community, you commit to treat all fellow members of this community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, with respect, and without judgment or bias.”
Chesky ended by saying that the policy is just the beginning of the company’s efforts to combat bias and discrimination, but some are skeptical.
With properties in 34,000 cities in 191 countries, and with bias sometimes difficult to call out, some advocates are wary that the company can follow through on its pledge, since the report doesn’t say whether it will consistently ban hosts based on discrimination charges. But most think the policy is a step in the right direction.
Enforcement of the policy will come in the form of tools to funnel complaints to a group of trained specialists, as well as training to address unconscious bias, but Murphy admits in the report that it will be a long process.
“Tackling these challenges requires a sustained and multifaceted approach,” she wrote.