Government & Politics

Black Caucus lauds Airbnb for new anti-discrimination plan

In this April 19, 2016, file photo, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an announcement in San Francisco. Airbnb apologized Thursday for its slow response to accusations of racism and outlined new policies to combat it, including reducing the prominence of photos in the booking process. "We have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry," said Chesky in a message published on the vacation rental website's blog.
In this April 19, 2016, file photo, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during an announcement in San Francisco. Airbnb apologized Thursday for its slow response to accusations of racism and outlined new policies to combat it, including reducing the prominence of photos in the booking process. "We have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry," said Chesky in a message published on the vacation rental website's blog. AP

The Congressional Black Caucus on Thursday praised Airbnb for revamping its nondiscrimination policy following complaints that some of the rental site’s hosts had rejected potential guests because of race.

Airbnb issued a 32-page report and announced a renewed anti-discrimination effort that begins Nov.1, The New York Times reported. The new measures include reducing the number of user photos and increasing the use of instant bookings to allow potential renters to book quickly without host approval, The Times reported.

“Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them,” Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky wrote in an email to users, according to Reuters. “Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry.”

Caucus members called the company’s new plan a “significant first step to address racial discrimination and exclusion of African-Americans and other minorities on the company’s platform.”

“We appreciate the opportunity to voice our concerns and provide recommendations on earlier reports, and the company’s willingness and efforts to take the issue of discrimination seriously, which is evident with the measures set forth in the report designed to prevent future discrimination and ill treatment of its customers,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.,caucus chairman and a co-chair of its diversity task force.”This is a standard that can be modeled throughout the tech industry.”

The 45-member caucus sent a letter to Chesky in June about discriminatory practices by some of the site’s hosts following reports that black guests were being turned away in places like North Carolina.

“Why is it so seemingly easy to discriminate against someone via Airbnb’s internet platform?” the letter signed by Butterfield and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., inquired. “What is Airbnb doing at present to address this glaring issue of discrimination?”

The San Francisco-based company banned a North Carolina host that month after he used racially insensitive language to inform a black woman who had booked a room that she wasn’t welcome.

Airbnb’s discrimination report was compiled by Laura Murphy, former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office. In addition, the company brought in Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s former attorney general, to serve as an adviser.

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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