The company thinks it might. On Thursday morning, Airbnb released a 32-page document that ambitiously aims to “fight discrimination and build inclusion,” in response to widespread criticism that minorities were being shut out of the home rental site.
Working with Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union, the company plans to create a team dedicated full-time to fighting bias and promoting diversity, experiment with reducing the profile photo size, discourage renters from falsely claiming a home isn’t vacant, and promote diversity in its own offices. The company warns that hosts “may not” decline a guest based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status. Failure to comply could (but maybe not) result in suspension from the platform.
In addition to growing complaints by Airbnb users about hosts’ discriminatory practices, three Harvard researchers released a working paper in December that revealed discrimination against guests with African-American-sounding names.
While the new policies read more like vague promises and a school teacher enforcing playground rules, it marks a step in the right direction for the company and for the world of the shared economy in general.