After much scrutiny including at least one ongoing class-action lawsuit, Airbnb issued a much-publicized report sharing its new anti-discrimination policy.

You may spot two things in the future:

  • More instant booking as this means no possible discrimination
  • If bookings are refused others cannot book those dates

According to Joah Spearman, this isn't enough. Read his open letter here.

Open letter overview

After reading your anti-discrimination policy, I thought to myself that while the travel startup founder in me is deeply inspired by what you, Joe Gebbia, Nate Blecharczyk and team have built with Airbnb, I am profoundly disappointed in both the company’s latency in addressing discrimination, and, now, I'm disappointed by the anti-discrimination policy set forth in your report, which falls short on impact.

  • Airbnb didn’t author the report. This leads me to believe the fight against discrimination lacks internal, high-level ownership
  • Airbnb hopes to limit bias, but is not willing to take steps to eliminate it
  • Airbnb’s definition of trust is simply not good enough for this important occasion in the company's stage. Airbnb should lead

Your thoughts?

Do you agree the rules are too flexible or are they too stringent? By potentially forcing instant book, you don't have a say who stays in your home.

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2 years ago

If Airbnb were to force instant bookings for all hosts, I would 100% remove my listing.

Not because I care about the ethnicity of my guests but because I'm sharing my home, my personal space. I am NOT a hotel room! I get to decide who stays and who doesn't!

2 years ago

I understand the complaints put forth by the author of this piece, but I also think that this isn’t a time to be criticizing Airbnb for their efforts to tackle discrimination within their platform. Airbnb has grown to its current astronomical size thanks in large part to the inclusive community that it has fostered and allowed to thrive. They have to allow their property owners to be autonomous or the system they've built wouldn’t work.

I think these are bigger first steps than people are giving credit for because they are taking away some liberties that owners used to have. I’m not talking about the freedom to discriminate, but rather the freedom to cancel a booking for any other personal reasons without getting penalized.

When I was managing my own properties I had to occasionally refuse bookings because a guest got a series of terrible reviews, I also had to cancel because something drastically went wrong at the property (pipe burst). It sounds like I may get penalized for these situations now, which could make being an Airbnb host even more difficult than it already is.

Just thought I’d make some counter-points to this article. I really do think this is a great first-step Airbnb is taking towards anti-discrimination and I know they will continue to work and improve on it. Does anyone have any real suggestions on what Airbnb should do instead?

2 years ago

If we bring all this back to human nature, which is where Airbnb have benefited: social, local community spirit, then the only way to remove discrimination (even Airbnb is not big enough to influence this) is to make the the booking process akin to that of's. Guests have to be de-personalised, use avatars and have "neutral non-named profiles" and reasons for non-acceptance extended without penalty.

The problem is that Airbnb relies on the social factor as part of its business model and the whole portrayed ethos and what differentiates the company. Its may be targeting more professional managed properties, but these still have "opinions" and "guidelines" as they are run by people with opinions.

Hard to see how they could solve a problem of this size!

2 years ago

I completely agree with Airbnb cracking down on discrimination.

However, I think it's tough for Airbnb to put strong rules forward. Hosts are placing an enormous amount of trust with guests, to not ruin their beautiful home. If every aspect of a user was anonymous, how can any host trust a guest?

Both parties need to feel comfortable, whilst simultaneously removing bias & discrimination.

One of Airbnb's solutions is to increase instant book. However, this doesn't help trust. Home owners have a right to know and understand who will be living in their personal space.

Therefore, the only real way Airbnb can remove discrimination is to remove hosts that discriminate - and that's a tough thing to prove. Maybe that's what their "discrimination team" should focus on.

Perhaps their discrimination rules are weak because they realise by actually removing discrimination, they remove inventory - something they don't really want to do!


2 years ago

Actual "discrimination" needs addressing. Airbnb seem to have used the issue as the chap says to increase the bottom line.

However what one person may consider a potential problem and objectionable another may not. This is where the plan falls over and discrimination is being leveraged.

We have all manner of opinions and differences as humans; Religious, dietary, levels of noise acceptance and much more. As many people have pointed out stags and hens, underage groups, wedding parties and much more can affect a decision to book.

This is an extract pulled from hundreds online from an Airbnb host with advice on accepting guests:

"My girlfriend and I would consider ourselves a ‘busy enough’ Airbnb host (generally booked around 50 – 75% of a month) so whilst we always go out of our way to respond to queries quickly with lots of detail, we are most certainly screening our guests. Our Airbnb rental, not surprisingly is also our home and we want everyone to feel comfortable. Hosting guests from all corners of planet Earth is a great experience but we enjoy a bottle glass of wine or two on regular occasion so it’s natural that our lifestyles need to share some common ground." fairbnb

It is this common ground that people enjoy and makes sharing all the more acceptable. Airbnb needs to think less about instant book (and get more problems) and be more like a dating site matching guests to hosts! After all that was the original ambition.

But as a more professional inventory hits the books, the rules will change anyway and more rules will enter the game and it will become less cuddly and more corporate.

2 years ago

less cuddly and more corporate

I loved Airbnb's start-up & entrepreneurial aura, that Joah's referring to, but I definitely sense it's on its way out. Not long until their monetary greed matches that of the other OTA's.

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