Travel

Airbnb will hide guests' names to stop hosts assuming their race – in one American state

Business Insider US
Airbnb has announced it will hide guests' names to fight racial discrimination after being sued by Black women.
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  • Airbnb has announced it will hide guests' names to fight racial discrimination – but only in the American state of Oregon.
  • It follows a 2019 settlement where three black women sued the company, claiming hosts could discriminate based on race.
  • The names of guests will be fully revealed when hosts confirm the booking. 
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Airbnb has announced it will hide guests' names to fight racial discrimination after being sued by three black women – but only in one US state.

Airbnb hosts in Oregon will see only guests' initials, instead of their first name, until a booking is confirmed.

The move follows a 2019 settlement where three Portland-area women sued the company. The black women claimed hosts were allowed to discriminate against and reject customers based on race.

The change will be fully rolled out by January 31, and was first reported by The Verge.

It represents Airbnb's latest efforts to fight racial bias on the platform. In 2018, which was after the lawsuit but before the settlement, it changed its policies so that profile photos are not required to use the peer-to-peer accommodation site. Hosts, however, can mandate photos for their properties but only see them after a booking is confirmed. 

Airbnb did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment as to why the feature is limited to Oregon or whether it will be rolled out further. 

"This update is consistent with the voluntary settlement agreement we reached in 2019 with individuals in Oregon who raised concerns regarding the way guests' names are displayed when they seek to book a listing. As part of our ongoing work, we will take any learnings from this process and use them to inform future efforts to fight bias," Airbnb wrote in a statement on its website.

The company vowed to strengthen its zero-tolerance policy in 2016 after a Harvard Business Review study found that guests with names that sounded African-American were around 16% less likely to be accepted than identical guests with white-sounding names.

Co-founder Brian Chesky responded with an apology for "any pain or frustration" experienced by guests and hosts for Airbnb's "slow" action addressing bias and discrimination. 

Several other changes have also been implemented in recent years. Hosts and guests must agree to the Airbnb Community Commitment, stating that they won't discriminate against others. In 2020, it launched Project Lighthouse, a research initiative to uncover discrimination on the platform, in partnership with racial justice organisation Color Of Change. 

"While we have made progress, we have much more to do and continue working with our hosts and guests, and with civil rights leaders to make our community more inclusive," Airbnb said in a statement.

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