Civil rights leaders to meet with Airbnb to discuss discrimination issues

            
    

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Max Fleishman

The company says they have 'zero tolerance' for any prejudice or bias on their website.

In response to the numerous reports of users claiming racist experiences, Airbnb will meet with civil rights leaders in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to collaborate on ideas for combatting discrimination. 

USA Today reports that the meeting is invitation-only and off-the-record. The meeting will be led by Chris Lehane, Airbnb's head of global policy, and Laura Murphy, the former head of the Washington ACLU who recently penned an op-ed on the subject. Attendees reportedly include Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, and Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

In an emailed statement to the Daily Dot, Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said the company is committed to fighting racism on its site. 

"We are engaged in a thorough review of our platform as part of our effort to fight discrimination," Papas says. "We don't have all the answers, and we want to listen to everyone who shares our commitment to fighting bias and discrimination. No one company is going to solve this significant societal challenge, but we are committed to leading on this matter and look forward to a productive conversation."

CEO Brian Chesky acknowledged the discrimination issue as well. At Airbnb's annual tech conference, OpenAir, he said his company is taking "swift action" against the complaints made against the site. 

"There's been a lot of news about prejudice and bias on our platform, and this is a huge issue for us," Chesky says. "We have zero tolerance for it and we will take swift action."

Chesky continues: "In the next months, we will be revisiting the design of our site from end to end to see how we can create a more inclusive platform. We're open to ideas. It's a really, really hard problem and we need help solving it. We want to move this forward. I myself have engaged with people who have been victims of discrimination on the platform. We take this seriously."

There have been various reports of discrimination against minority groups on Airbnb, including a viral incident in May when a white host in North Carolina said racial slurs and cancelled a booking by a black guest. The incident was chronicled with the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack. In response, platforms such as Noirbnb—which serve a similar purpose to Airbnb—pledged to launch temporary lodging services for African-Americans. 

Even though this host was permanently banned from using the website—since his statements went against the company's anti-discrimination policy—many other incidents of racism have been reported. 

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) have also expressed their concerns with Airbnb. According to NBC, Butterfield and Cleaver are pressuring Airbnb to seriously address accusations of racism on the site.

"Several African-American consumers have been subjected to discrimination on the Airbnb internet platform. Racism and any form of discrimination should never be tolerated in our society," Butterfield and Cleaver said in a press release.

Airbnb is currently undergoing a comprehensive review to examine how hosts and guests interact and what can be done to ensure everyone is treated fairly. The company expects to announce the findings of their review in early September, according to an emailed press release. 

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