Airbnb combats racial bias by using initials in place

To fight potential racial bias in its booking process, short-term rental company Airbnb will begin hiding the first names of potential guests from Oregon from its potential hosts. Until the booking is confirmed, the host will see the initials of the interested renters. The program is to be implemented by the end of January and is to last for at least two years.

At this point, the change only applies to Oregon residents, with no concrete plans to make it permanent or expand it. “Given that the impact of this change is unknown, implementation will be limited,” a company spokesperson said in an email on Thursday.

The change stems from a 2019 settlement of a lawsuit brought by three African-American women who alleged that requiring potential renters to share full names and photos of their faces, allowing hosts to rank with them on the basis of race. discrimination is allowed.

This is not the first action Airbnb has taken to stop racial discrimination. The company made changes to when and how profile pictures are shared and required hosts to sign an anti-discrimination commitment. In 2020, Airbnb launched the Lighthouse Project to measure and fight racial bias on its platform, with the help of the racial justice organization Color of Change.

In 2016, a Harvard Business Review Journal study found that “guests with uniquely African-American names” were 16% less likely to be accepted on stage than “similar guests with distinctly white names.”

“This update is in line with a 2019 voluntary settlement agreement with individuals in Oregon who raised concerns about the way guests’ names were displayed,” the company said in a blog post announcing the move in late December. ,

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our take

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our take

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