After being accused of tweaking data to make it seem like a larger percentage of its New York City hosts were innocently renting out their personal homes, Airbnb admitted yesterday that it did indeed remove "roughly 1500" listings from its site before making the information public. In a letter to the New York State Assembly and Senate and accompanying FAQ, Airbnb says it did indeed remove New York City listings. But the frames it as part of their own ongoing initiative to remove any listings that do not align with the company's values:
We issued our Community Compact in November. Throughout November, and consistent with our Compact commitments, we removed roughly 1,500 of the 37,000+ Airbnb listings in New York City in an effort to remove listings that appeared to be controlled by commercial operators and did not reflect Airbnb's vision for our community. 622 hosts were impacted, including 375 (60%) that had 2 or more listings removed.
This pruning of the Airbnb listings just before they were released to the public was exactly what was suspected by our own Josh Laurito, who was one of a handful of journalists who were allowed to peek at the data. The issue was brought to national attention after a report from the watchdog site Inside Airbnb, which claimed 1438 listings had disappeared. That would be right around the "roughly 1,500" Airbnb describes.
Airbnb didn't technically do anything wrong -- of course it has the right to remove listings that violate its terms of service. This does look bad, though. It really does seem like the company purposely tried to cull listings from more commercialised interests -- the kinds of hosts that just rent out a bunch of apartments which could be used for housing -- before it released this information publicly. It's disappointing after the company made such a big to-do about transparency.
In addition to the letter, Airbnb released revised data on the number of listings per host, the number of nights booked per year and the percentage of New York City revenue brought in by the different types of hosts. According to this data, 39 per cent of total NYC revenue is brought in by hosts with multiple listings, which went down by 3 per cent after The Purge.