In the four years since it implemented an agreement to promote equitable treatment of its users, Airbnb claims that 1.4 million individuals have been barred from the platform because they declined to refuse bigotry. In an email to Gizmodo, a spokesperson confirmed that this is the number people who were asked to click “accept” on a simple non-discrimination agreement, instead clicked “reject,” and decided to forego the use of the platform.
In 2016, Airbnb implemented a brief “community commitment” that all existing users would have to ok in order to continue making bookings or to set up a new account. It’s a pretty simple ask:
I agree to treat everyone in the Airbnb community — regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age — with respect, and without judgment or bias.
By agreeing to the community commitment, users — and most importantly, hosts — also must follow the nondiscrimination policy which enumerates prohibited acts. To name a few, the policy states hosts cannot: decline bookings or provide different hospitality conditions based on the aforementioned classes; post intimidating statements; or refuse to accommodate mobility devices or service animals.
Black guests have shared countless instances of being denied bookings based on their avatars, sparking the #AirbnbWhileBlack hashtag and multiple lawsuits. A pro-Trump host refused a booking request because the guest was Asian. Another denied lodging to a trans woman who supposedly made them “uncomfortable.” North Africans have been turned away by French hosts. Chinese hosts have openly refused requests from Uyghurs and Tibetans. The list goes on.
Airbnb was unable to offer metrics on the locations of the 1.4 million pro-discrimination users, or on how many users it has banned for agreeing to the community commitment but acting in ways that ran counter to it.
Victims have often criticised Airbnb for its reluctance to act until after it’s staring down the bad kind of media attention. After waves of public complaints, the platform has adjusted policies; in 2018, it began hiding profile photos which are now visible only after bookings are confirmed. It’s currently working on a research project with civil rights organisations, to inform future policies. But for now, that remains vague.
Airbnb has additionally committed to unequivocally deplatforming known and suspected members of hate groups: it preempted Unite the Right attendees from booking in 2017, and those of the 2018 Unite the Right sequel, and of a 2019 neo-Nazi summit. The company also told Gizmodo last year that it banned over 60 users identified as members of the defunct neo-Nazi forum Iron March. The topic came up again this week when a Twitter user flagged a screenshot from an alleged Proud Boy claiming to have booked an Airbnb for this weekend’s Million MAGA March, and Airbnb quickly cancelled the booking (and banned the individual in question.)
1.4 million self-certified bigots might not be missed, but its a considerable number of paying customers for a company to turn away, especially when gearing up for an IPO. While an Airbnb spokesperson was not able to confirm the number of current active Airbnb users, the company says that it hosts seven million rentals worldwide.