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Airbnb Launches New Initiative To Stop Racial Discrimination On The Platform
Airbnb has come under fire many times in the past for racial discrimination from hosts towards guests. Criticism of Airbnb began in 2015 when a Harvard University study found it was tougher for guests with African American-sounding names to rent rooms through the service. After being shared on social media, the study gained national attention, giving rise to the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.
Airbnb’s Project Lighthouse will measure discrimination based on perception, using a methodology that determines the race someone might associate with a first name and profile photo. These perceptions will be aggregated and used to identify discrepancies in people’s experiences on the platform that could result from discrimination and bias. The project is set to start on June 30.
Data collected through Project Lighthouse will help the company create tools and policies to combat bias against Black users and other people of color, Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO and co-founder, told USA TODAY.
“The reason we started Airbnb was to connect people, to make sure that they feel like they belong in the communities they visit and the biggest obstacle to belonging is discrimination,” Chesky said in an interview with USA TODAY. “It became very evident that until you can actually measure your progress with data, you can’t actually combat systemic bias and discrimination on the platform.”
Airbnb claims since 2016, they have removed 1.3M people from the platform for declining to treat others without judgment or bias.
“This is not a ‘mission accomplished.’ This is a mission just starting and getting going,” Chesky said. “I think we are going to be working on this for a very long time to come, so long as there is discrimination on our platform.”