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Throughout its existence, Airbnb has been plagued with reports of racial discrimination and profiling by hosts. While the company has taken action to ban some discriminatory hosts (as recently as last month), an agreement signed with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing might be the online rental platform's biggest move yet to combat racial profiling.
Under the agreement, Airbnb will submit to fair housing testing and allow the DFEH to audit hosts for racial bias in part by creating fake renter profiles. Here's how the program will work.
While Airbnb contends it can't be held legally liable for the conduct of its third-party users, it asserts in the Voluntary Agreement that it is "committed to effectively address the existence of discrimination by users of its platform. To that end, Airbnb will report statistics on guest acceptances by race in California and advise users with claims of racial discrimination that they have right to file a complaint with DFEH. Additionally, Airbnb will submit to fair housing testing, which "involves the use of trained individuals and/or the creation of customer profiles with specific characteristics to pose as prospective renters in order to gather information about whether a host is complying with fair housing laws."
Airbnb also agreed to modify its Nondiscrimination Policy, which will apply to "all hosts and guests, irrespective of sex, race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, familial status, source of income, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status." And all of Airbnb's California employees will receive antidiscrimination and bias-awareness training.
Airbnb estimates it has over 76,000 hosts in California alone, and asserted in its press release that the company is committed to fighting bias and discrimination on its platform. "Fighting discrimination is fundamental to our mission and we are committed to creating a community that is open to everyone," said Airbnb General Counsel Rob Chesnut. "Our work with the State of California builds on our ongoing efforts to fight bias and we look forward to continuing to work with state leaders to ensure the Airbnb community is fair for everyone."
The agreement with California regulators will last two years, and as long as Airbnb complies with the terms of the agreement the DFEH will withhold filing new complaints against the company.
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