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Airbnb Promises to Verify All 7 Million Listings After VICE Report Exposes Scam

The company's CEO said in an email that the company would undertake a year-long project to ensure every listing is advertised accurately.

by Maxwell Strachan
Nov 6 2019, 6:01pm

IONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images

Airbnb is instituting a series of significant changes to its platform and operation in an effort to reclaim its users’ trust following a VICE report that uncovered a nationwide web of deception and led to questions about the company’s broader verification and refund process.

"Today, we are making the most significant steps in designing trust on our platform since our original design in 2008," Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said in an email to employees Wednesday.

Chesky said that the company would undertake a year-long project to ensure that every home listed on the platform is accurately advertised. As a stopgap measure, the company will “rebook the guest a new listing of equal or greater value” or completely refund them starting next month should the rental they booked not meet the company’s accuracy standards.

“Starting now, verification of all seven million listings on Airbnb will commence,” Chesky said. “We believe that trust on the Internet begins with verifying the accuracy of the information on Internet platforms, and we believe that this is an important step for our industry."

Following the mass shooting at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California, last week, Airbnb plans to make other changes, including banning "party houses" and instituting a "24/7 Neighbor Hotline" that is run by a rapid response team, which Airbnb says will allow "anyone" to call the company "anytime, anywhere in the world and reach a real person at Airbnb."

The company has additionally promise to expand "manual screening of high-risk reservations flagged by our risk detection models," Chesky said. "This will help identify suspicious reservations and stop unauthorized parties before they start."

Last week, reporter Allie Conti published an investigation into a scam artist who created multiple fake Airbnb profiles, posted inaccurate listings and at the last minute pressured guests to move into homes they did not reserve. Many of those who were deceived, including Conti herself, only faced further frustrations once they turned to Airbnb for support and refunds.

"More than eleven years after Joe, Nate, and I started Airbnb, I have been asked what has surprised me most about the world. My answer is two things: that people are, in fact, fundamentally good, and that we are 99% the same," Chesky said Wednesday. "We still believe this, and with these changes, we hope to continue to demonstrate this to the world."

Here is Chesky's entire email to employees:

Subject: In the business of trust

Hey team,

Airbnb is a business fueled by trust. When we started Airbnb in 2008, people said it would never work. “Strangers will never trust one another,” they said. But we believed that people are fundamentally good, and that we could design a system for strangers to trust one another. Our real innovation is not allowing people to book a home; it’s designing a framework to allow millions of people to trust one another. Trust is the real energy source that drives Airbnb and has enabled us to scale our platform to 191 countries and to more than 600 million members.

But recently, events by bad actors on our platform took advantage of that trust, including at a home in Orinda, California. We intend to do everything possible to learn from these incidents when they occur.

People need to feel like they can trust our community, and that they can trust Airbnb when something does go wrong. Today, we are making the most significant steps in designing trust on our platform since our original design in 2008. Our update entails four solutions.

100% Verified:

Starting now, verification of all seven million listings on Airbnb will commence. Homes will be verified for accuracy of the listing (including accuracy of photos, addresses, and listing details) and quality standards (including cleanliness, safety, and basic home amenities) and those that meet our high expectations will be clearly labeled. By December 15, 2020, every home and every host on Airbnb will be reviewed with the objective of 100% verification. We believe that trust on the Internet begins with verifying the accuracy of the information on Internet platforms, and we believe that this is an important step for our industry.

Guest Guarantee:

Beginning on December 15, 2019, if upon checking into a listing it does not meet our accuracy standards, Airbnb will rebook the guest a new listing of equal or greater value, or they will get 100% of their money back. Most hosts do a great job, but guests need to feel like Airbnb has their back, and we believe this commitment is a necessary step in giving guests peace of mind.

Airbnb Neighbor Hotline:

We are launching a new 24/7 Neighbor Hotline so that anyone can call us anytime, anywhere in the world and reach a real person at Airbnb. We will staff this hotline with a rapid response team so that neighbors can reach us directly with their concerns, and our phone number will be placed prominently on our homepage, in our app, and easily searchable on Google. We are developing a training program and protocols for our rapid response team, and we have asked Charles Ramsey, former Chief of both the Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Police Departments, and Ronald Davis, the former Chief of East Palo Alto Police Department and President Obama’s Executive Director of Community Oriented Policing Services, to advise us. This will launch in the United States by December 31, 2019, and will roll out globally over the course of 2020.

High Risk Human Review:

To address unauthorized house parties, beginning on December 15, and informed by previous pilots, we are expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations flagged by our risk detection models to all of North America, with global rollout through 2020. This will help identify suspicious reservations and stop unauthorized parties before they start. For example, we look at the duration of the stay and listing attributes such as the size of the listing, amongst hundreds of other factors. Risk scoring helps us focus our attention and find the needle in the haystack.

With these additional protections, we will work together with our community of guests and hosts to reinforce the trust platform that we have built with our community. The world moves at the speed of trust, and the more trust that exists, the more access we can all have. Airbnb is founded on trust, and our vision depends on us continuing to increase this in our community.

More than eleven years after Joe, Nate, and I started Airbnb, I have been asked what has surprised me most about the world. My answer is two things: that people are, in fact, fundamentally good, and that we are 99% the same. We still believe this, and with these changes, we hope to continue to demonstrate this to the world.

Brian

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