Tech by VICE

Airbnb Is Politely Asking Its Hosts Not to Be Racist

The company is trying to keep hosts from discriminating against renters by having users agree to a "community commitment," as well as getting rid of profile photos.

by VICE Staff
Sep 8 2016, 7:51pm

Photo via Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

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It seems like Airbnb spends most of its time keeping shitty renters from throwing coke-fueled orgies in newly weds' apartments or whatever. But now the San Francisco–based short-term rental company has decided to hold its hosts accountable too, by updating its nondiscrimination policy, the New York Times reports.

In order to ensure that hosts can't pick and choose guests based on race, religion, gender, or disability, the company is asking its users to agree to a new "community commitment" on November 1, which basically just politely asks that users not be dicks and work together.

The company also says it's taking steps to get rid of profile pictures on the app, which is a pretty dead giveaway on the race, age, and gender front. It's also going to make it easier for renters to book places instantly, rather than having to wait for host approval.

Critics say that the changes are an important step toward addressing the company's growing discrimination problem. Last December, Harvard researchers found that potential renters with more ethnic-sounding names had a much harder time booking a place than those who did not. And in May, an African American man filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming he had been denied by a host because of his race.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky sent out an email to users this morning announcing the new changes, which included a 32-page report outlining the company's discrimination problem in detail. He also apologized, saying, "Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry... We will not only make this right; we will work to set an example that other companies can follow."

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