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Airbnb announces new anti-discrimination policies

Company facing allegations that rules could allow racially driven rental decisions

Answering charges that the company doesn’t do enough to address potentially racially driven rental decisions, Airbnb announced Thursday that it is adopting a series of policies aimed at fighting discrimination in its platform.

According to a report from the New York Times, Airbnb published a 32-page report Thursday outlining its new policies in detail.

From the New York Times report:

In a 32-page report, Airbnb, based in San Francisco, said that it would institute a new nondiscrimination policy that goes beyond what is outlined in several anti-discrimination laws and that it would ask all users to agree to a “community commitment” starting on Nov. 1. The commitment asks people to work with others who use the service, “regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age.”

In addition, the company plans to experiment with reducing the prominence of user photos, which have helped signal race and gender. Airbnb said it would also accelerate the use of instant bookings, which lets renters book places immediately without host approval.

The policies come in response to accusations that its anti-discrimination policies were lax, leading some to accuse the company of allowing racist behavior.

As Bloomberg reported earlier this year, Airbnb is already the subject of a civil-rights lawsuit, due to the company allegedly ignoring a black man’s complaints that he was denied a rental through Airbnb because of his race.

Airbnb is also facing scrutiny from Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif, who recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the impact of Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms on communities’ housing markets.

In their letter, the Democrats also mention the “troubling reports” of racial discrimination on “some short-term rental platforms.”

In response to those reports, Airbnb hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to help the company develop its anti-discrimination policy, which it announced Thursday.

For much more on Airbnb’s impact on housing, click here to read a feature piece on the short-term rental company in the latest issue of HousingWire Magazine by our own Kelsey Ramírez.

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