Airbnb is making big strides toward eliminating discrimination on its platform and within the company.
This morning, the company released a 32-page report announcing broad site- and company-wide changes, following the findings of a three-month-long investigation into how the company handled discrimination cases among its users.
Here are some of the most important changes coming that will affect users:
- By November 1, all users will have to read and explicitly agree to the company’s no community commitment, which says Airbnb users agree to not be ageist, sexist, ableist, or discriminatory in any manner. Any user that doesn’t agree or violates the policy will be barred from using the platform.
- The company will make Instant Booking more prominent on the platform. The feature allows guests to rent without going through a back-and-forth approval process. This ensures that new users who don’t have an established track record on the site won’t be profiled by hosts.
- The company will hire a 24/7 team that will actively handle discrimination reports. Airbnb is also adopting an “open doors” policy that will help victims of discrimination find a place to stay around the same area.
- Profile photos will be less prominent. Murphy writes that the decision to keep them was contentious — profile photos are, by name and by nature, a gateway for profiling as well as an easy way for guests and hosts to establish a connection. But the company says it’s experimenting with making profile photos less prominent and highlighting secondary info, like the users’ reviews and references.
Laura Murphy, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union and now senior advisor for Airbnb, spearheaded the report. It’s a culmination of over three months of work and conversations with numerous stakeholders and policymakers, including nearly 20 racial justice groups, civil rights attorneys and academia, and senior representatives from numerous departments within the company.
“Airbnb is engaging in frank and sustained conversations about bias on its platform,” Murphy wrote, “More noteworthily, however, Airbnb is putting in place powerful systemic changes to greatly reduce the opportunity for hosts and guests to engage in conscious or unconscious discriminatory conduct.”
Within the company itself, all employees will be mandated to take anti-bias training, whereas it was only optional before. The company is also adopting a policy when hiring senior level employees — all candidate pools must include women and people from underrepresented backgrounds.
It’s a huge step forward considering tech companies have made scant progress in their diversity policies.
“I’ve sat through meetings time and time again where well-meaning white liberals who voted for and even gave money to Obama tell us how they can’t find any qualified black people,” Rashad Robinson, president of Colours for Change, tells Business Insider. Colours for Change was included in discussions with Murphy and Airbnb for months following #AirbnbWhileBlack, where black users shared stories where they experienced racism on the platform.
“I do think Airbnb at the very least taking a much more bold step than other companies, which have been in the crosshairs of this issue for much longer.”
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