Airbnb sent out an email to their users on Saturday asking them to agree to a new "community commitment." Not doing so will result in the loss of your Airbnb account. The email specifically details the commitment, which is essentially a non-discrimination policy. It reads, "You commit to treat everyone — regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias."
While we'd all like to think this policy is how people live their lives, sadly that is not the case.
Last December, a working paper from Harvard University revealed how our "sharing economy" doesn't exactly share and share alike. Specifically, the study's trio of researchers found that Airbnb hosts are 16% less likely to roll out the welcome mat to users with "distinctively African-American names." While Annes and Brents receive positive responses nearly half the time, for instance, LaToyas and Jamals were approved just over a third of the time.
To be fair, this isn't an issue exclusive to Airbnb. A 2003 study from the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research found that CVs with Black-sounding names received 30% fewer callbacks, compared to identical CVs with white-sounding names.
If you decline to sign the commitment, which will pop up the next time you log onto the site after the 1st of November, the email explains, "you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is cancelled, future booked trips will be cancelled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests."
We reached out to Airbnb for comment and Nick Papas, Director of Airbnb Public Affairs, directed us to a blog post detailing their process. In April, the company enlisted Laura W. Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington D.C. legislative office, to lead a review every aspect of the Airbnb platform to help ensure they are doing everything we can to fight bias and discrimination. The result, according to the post, was the establishment of the community commitment.