Saturday, May 06, 2017

Airbnb Agrees To Allow State Of California To Conduct Fair Housing Testing Of Certain Hosts In Settlement Of Racial Discrimination, "#AirbnbWhileBlack" Lawsuit

In San Francisco, California, The Guardian reports:
  • Airbnb will allow the government to test for racial discrimination by hosts as part of an agreement with California that is the first of its kind and could pave the way for stricter regulations and greater public scrutiny.

    The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced Thursday [April 27] that it had resolved a complaint it filed against Airbnb with an agreement that forces the company to permit the state to conduct “fair housing testing” of certain hosts. That means that for the first time the San Francisco-based company is giving a regulatory body permission to conduct the kind of racial discrimination audits that officials have long used to enforce fair housing laws against traditional landlords.

    The resolution of the state’s ten-month investigation is significant given that Airbnb, like many popular “sharing economy” companies such as Uber and Instacart, has repeatedly resisted existing industry regulations, arguing that it is a “platform” and not subject to local laws and requirements that apply to similar businesses.

    The DFEH’s original complaint – which had not previously been disclosed – was based on research and a growing number of reports suggesting that hosts regularly refuse to rent to guests due to their race, a problem exposed last year under the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.

    On social media, black Airbnb users reported experiences of facing a rejection by a host, who later accepted them when they changed their profile to a white person. Earlier this month, an Asian American woman’s account of discrimination in California went viral after she said a host cancelled on her last minute specifically because of her race, leaving her stranded in a storm.
For more, see Airbnb gives in to regulator's demand to test for racial discrimination by hosts (San Francisco-based company reached an agreement with California’s housing agency amid complaints of guests being rejected for their race).

See, generally, #AirbnbWhileBlack: How Hidden Bias Shapes The Sharing Economy.

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