Airbnb plans to pursue new technological solutions to guard against future discrimination on the platform, said CEO Brian Chesky at a recent conference. The move comes after a series of incidents and revelations regarding apparent discrimination on the platform: a Harvard Business School study suggested that racial discrimination may be pervasive on Airbnb, the #AirbnbWhileBlack campaign surfaced personal experiences of discrimination, and the company was even sued in federal court for alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
According to Chesky:
In the next months, we will be revisiting the design of our site from end to end to see how we can create a more inclusive platform. We’re open to ideas. It’s a really, really hard problem and we need help solving it. We want to move this forward. I myself have engaged with people who have been victims of discrimination on the platform. We take this seriously.
While we will have to wait and see what changes and potential technological solutions Airbnb rolls out to its platform, as USA Today reports, “Airbnb said a new program is in the works to recruit more underrepresented minorities in computer science and data science. It also tapped civil rights advocate Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington D.C. Legislative Office, to help lead a ‘comprehensive’ review of how hosts who rent their homes on Airbnb pick guests.”
As Kristen V. Brown and Kashmir Hill write in Fusion, “[o]ne of the questions raised here is the extent to which Airbnb can eliminate racism on its platform. It can certainly take actions that make it harder for racism to surface.” True, there is no single fix. Nevertheless, Airbnb should still be praised for taking discrimination on its platform seriously and working to combat it.