Airbnb tackling racial discrimination

By: Andrew Curtin

At 2.00 pm, June 15th, Airbnb in partnership with Color of Change launched a new gripping campaign titled ‘Project Lighthouse’. The objective of the campaign is to “overcome discrimination on Airbnb”.

tweet from airbnb twitter page

Let’s go back to 2016 for a moment, when a 23-year-old African-American business consultant named Quirtina Crittenden created the hashtag #AirBnBWhileBlack. The Chicagoan established her campaign after being declined on numerous occasions by Airbnb hosts, even though the apartments were advertised as available.

So to test the waters, Quirtina decided to experiment. She changed her name to “Tina” and changed her profile pic to a generic landscape image on her Airbnb account and repeated the process. Lo and behold, her bookings were accepted. “Ever since I changed my name and my photo, I’ve never had any issues on Airbnb,” Crittenden told NPR.

In 2016, a Havard study explored racial discrimination in the sharing economy. And the results suggested that “requests from guests with distinctively African-American names are roughly 16% less likely to be accepted than identical guests with distinctively white names”. 6400 property listings across Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C were used to collect the report’s data. It’s quite saddening typing this, but unfortunately, it’s reality!

Since these reports, Airbnb has tightened up the screws. The company has introduced new policies and pacts such as community commitment, instant booking (stops hosts screen guests) and no longer displaying profile pics prior to bookings.

The Project Lighthouse campaign will “measure discrimination based on perception, using a privacy-centric methodology that determines the race someone might associate with a first name and profile photo,” according to Airbnb

Hopefully, Airbnb has set the standards for others to follow!

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