Airbnb announced that it will start hiding the names of guests to fight racial discrimination on its platform. Hosts in Oregon will only see the initials of their potential guests instead of their first names. The names of the guest will only appear once the booking is confirmed. This new feature will start on January 31.
The recent change was because of a settlement in 2019. Three Oregon women filed a lawsuit against Airbnb alleging that the site allowed hosts to discriminate customers based on their race. According to the plaintiffs, by disclosing the users’ full names and photos, hosts can discriminate against black users.
In a statement, “This update is consistent with the voluntary settlement agreement reached in 2019 with individuals in Oregon who raised concerns regarding the way guests’ names are displayed when they seek to book a listing”. It added that “As part of our ongoing work, we will take any learnings from this process and use them to inform future efforts to fight bias”.
Changes to Fight Racial Discrimination
According to a 2016 Harvard Business School study, individuals with African American sounding names are 16% less likely to get accepted by a host. In 2016, co-founder Brian Chesky issued an apology for the “slow” action in addressing racial discrimination on Airbnb’s platform.
Airbnb made several changes to its policies over the years to fight discrimination. In 2018, Airbnb changed its policy and allowed hosts to not require photos. Photos will only appear after the host accepted the booking.
In 2020, Airbnb started Project Lighthouse. This research is in partnership with the racial justice organization Color of Change. The goal of Project Lighthouse was to uncover discrimination in the platform.
In a statement, Airbnb said that “While we have made progress, we have much more to do”. It also added that it is going to “continue working” with guests, hosts, and civil rights leaders to make their platform more inclusive.