Apps | June 15, 2020 12:01 pm

Here’s How Airbnb Plans to Combat Discrimination on Its Service

A new task force will study the reservation process, reviews and interactions for signs of bias

Airbnb
Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

The perception of bias and racism has long plagued Airbnb. Now, the company hopes to address the issues directly via a new anti-discrimination task force.

“The reason we’re doing this is because we have not achieved our goal of reducing all bias and discrimination on our platform,” as Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky told the political newsletter Axios, while noting that discrimination is “not a new issue” for the site.

Dubbed Project Lighthouse, the initiative will “address discrimination that’s based on perception — and on Airbnb, people perceive race from things like first names and profile photos.” From there, the company hopes to determine the effectiveness of policies to fight racism. 

The house-share app is collaborating with civil rights organizations such as Color of Change and Upturn for the study, which (as Axios notes) will cover the reservation process, reviews and interactions with Airbnb’s customer support.

As for privacy issues, Airbnb claims they’ll be analyzing trends in bulk, and won’t associate “perceived race information with specific accounts.”

To combat bias, Airbnb currently has a non-discrimination policy that users must agree to, profile photos that aren’t viewable until after guests have booked and a dedicated non-discrimination team. They also claim to have removed 1.3 million users since 2016 over bias and discrimination claims.

Back in 2016, the company hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a previous effort to curb discrimination on its site.

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