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What Airbnb is doing to fight racism on its platform

Last year, a Harvard Business School study found that people with traditionally African-American names had a more difficult time securing an Airbnb rental than those with “white” names. And after several reports emerged from Airbnb guests and hosts who had experienced discrimination, Airbnb faced accusations that it enabled racism.

The company hired Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington, D.C. legislative office, to review its policies. Today, it released the resulting report, which details the company’s efforts toward inclusion. They are:

1. If a guest feels they have been discriminated against, starting October 1, Airbnb will help him or her find a comparable listing on Airbnb or, if one is not available, will help find accommodations elsewhere.

2. Airbnb plans to create new tools for reporting discrimination on Airbnb (like the option to flag a message) and has built a permanent, full-time team of engineers, data scientists, and researchers whose sole purpose is to root out bias from the platform.

3. Starting November 1, all Airbnb users will be asked to agree to a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy that “requires Airbnb hosts and guests to do significantly more than merely follow applicable laws.”

4. Airbnb will experiment with reducing the prominence of guest photos in the booking process.

5. Airbnb will work to increase “instant booking” on its platform. With this option, hosts set criteria for hosts (such as “pet friendly”) but do not individually approve their profiles before agreeing to host them.

6. Airbnb is working on making anti-bias training available to hosts. It plans to have its entire workforce complete this training by January 2017.SK