Discrimination by Airbnb hosts is widespread, report says

December 14, 2015
Airbnb likes to refer to itself as less a company than a "community." To that end, it has made trust between real people a cornerstone of its business strategy in short-term home rentals.
     But new research suggests that when users get real, racism can result.
     A working paper by three Harvard researchers found "widespread discrimination" by hosts against people with black-sounding names seeking rentals. Fictional guests set up by the researchers with names like Lakisha or Rasheed were roughly 16 per cent less likely to be accepted than identical guests with names like Brent or Kristen.
     "Clearly, the manager of a Holiday Inn cannot examine names of potential guests and reject them based on race," the authors wrote. "Yet, this is commonplace on Airbnb." Airbnb, valued by investors at roughly $24 billion and based in San Francisco, said in a statement that it was "committed to making Airbnb one of the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent communities in the world." It added, "We recognise that bias and discrimination are significant challenges, and we welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community."