What They’re Saying: Airbnb’s Work to Fight Discrimination and Bias

This morning, Airbnb released a report outlining some of the steps we’re taking to fight bias and discrimination. Here’s what some people are saying about this work:

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield

“The Congressional Black Caucus commends Airbnb and its CEO, Brian Chesky, for taking this significant first step to address racial discrimination and exclusion of African Americans and other minorities on the company’s platform. We appreciate the opportunity to voice our concerns and provide recommendations on earlier reports, and the company’s willingness and efforts to take the issue of discrimination seriously, which is evident with the measures set forth in the report designed to prevent future discrimination and ill-treatment of its customers. This is a standard that can be modeled throughout the tech industry.”

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II

“After meeting with Airbnb staff, it is encouraging that the company has decided to respond constructively to the letter Chairman Butterfield and I sent to CEO Brian Chesky in June regarding discriminatory behavior by a number of Airbnb hosts. This is a commendable step in the right direction and I am confident that Airbnb will continue to take the correct actions to ensure that all consumers are treated as equals when using Airbnb’s services.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

“I’d like to applaud Airbnb for their efforts to address racial discrimination and abuse. Today’s report displays a real and serious commitment to serving all people. This report is an important first step that I’m confident will be followed by further action.”

Former Attorney General Eric Holder

“I agreed to help because from the first time we spoke, Airbnb’s leadership team was willing to have that tough, uncomfortable conversation, and because they had the humility and courage to ask for help in the first place. That told me that their goal was to fix the problem, not simply to respond to public criticism. Throughout the last three months, under Laura’s leadership, Airbnb has conducted a rigorous, thorough and inclusive review of its technology and its policies. The review included conversations with employees at every level of the company, Airbnb hosts and victims of discrimination, and outside experts. It also included outreach to civil rights organizations, regulators and federal and state lawmakers. The result is one of the most detailed and honest reviews of a company’s role in fighting discrimination, including where efforts fell short, that I’ve ever witnessed.”

Human Rights Campaign Press Secretary Sarah McBride

“Through its actions, Airbnb is demonstrating a seriousness of cause and commitment to ensuring that every person is treated with dignity and fairness when accessing their services around the world. Welcoming and safe lodging is vital for everyone, but particularly for LGBTQ people for whom prejudice and discrimination can make traveling a stressful and worrying experience. The new sharing economy presents unique challenges to ensuring all customers are treated fairly and do not encounter bias and discrimination. We are confident that Airbnb’s steps will serve as an industry-wide model for the inclusion and support of all customers regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Civil Rights Attorney John Relman

“I am impressed and heartened by the breadth and scope of the new initiatives and changes that Airbnb is announcing today to fight discrimination on its platform and in the Airbnb community. Figuring out how best to root out both overt and unconscious bias among hosts and users is not easy. It will take time and perseverance. But the steps that Airbnb is announcing today are going to make an important and immediate difference. These initiatives signal an extraordinary commitment of purpose and resources in the coming months and years to address an intractable problem. It is welcome news, and an approach that I hope will be followed by more companies both in Silicon Valley and across the country.”

Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

“Once #AirbnbWhileBlack gave a voice to users who experience discrimination on its platform, Airbnb responded with a speed, transparency, and thoughtfulness that’s atypical among large corporations and Silicon Valley companies in particular.

The company’s response, and that of its CEO, Brian Chesky, was to quickly hire Laura W. Murphy, former Attorney General Eric Holder, John Relman, and Dr. Robert Livingston, among others, to support the company in its effort to reduce discrimination on its platform. I personally participated in the series of meetings Laura Murphy convened with some of the nation’s leading civil rights advocates in Washington, DC to solicit our ideas, suggestions, and recommendations.

While Airbnb did not accept all of the recommendations we offered, they did thoughtfully consider them and this report is evidence of that. The Murphy report is an important first step that shows an openness to considering far-reaching solutions to reducing discrimination on the Airbnb platform.

Among the more promising reforms include the expansion of instant booking, the “Open Doors” rapid-response initiative to deal with issues of discrimination as they happen, and efforts to address implicit bias among the company’s hosts and employees. Furthermore, Airbnb’s stated commitment to considering diverse candidates for its own senior level positions should be considered by other Silicon Valley companies that have largely failed to reflect the diversity of the nation in their workforces.

This report has not addressed every issue of concern but it is an important step in the right direction.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice

“Rather than deny or ignore these issues when we raised them, Airbnb to its credit reached out to us to tackle the problem head on,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of LCCREJ. “The report and action plan issued by Airbnb today are only the beginning, but they commit Airbnb to taking a number of significant steps in the right direction.”

“We will continue to hold Airbnb’s feet to the fire, to make sure that they follow through on their commitments,” said Oren Sellstrom, Director of Litigation at LCCREJ. “But these initial steps are very encouraging.”

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