3. Airbnb deploys data to thwart discrimination
Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky told Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva and me that he's launching a data project to measure discrimination experienced by hosts and users because of perceptions about their race — usually based on photo and name.
- "When people deny somebody a home, they don't ask them their background, their nationality, their heritage," Chesky told us via Zoom from his house in San Francisco. "They look at them, they make a snap judgment."
The context: Airbnb users have faced discrimination for years. Subtle and overt racism occasionally surfaces in social media, but customers had little recourse.
Airbnb's Project Lighthouse, in partnership with Color of Change and other advisers, will cover the reservation process, reviews, and interactions with customer support.
- Airbnb says it worked with privacy experts to ensure that the data won’t be linked with individual Airbnb accounts. Users can opt out.
- The company will publish findings and aggregate data.
Color Of Change President Rashad Robinson said: "We get gaslit around whether or not something was racist or not. People say it was something else."
- Robinson points out that Airbnb has assigned engineers to work on anti-discrimination efforts — a sign in Silicon Valley that the company takes the problem seriously.
What's next: Chesky said that as a future data-gathering project, he wants to capture in-the-moment data, probably through the Airbnb app, about what he calls "moments of truth" for guests — booking, check-in, settling in (say, the morning after arrival), and checking out.
- "How comfortable did you feel?" Chesky said. "These are moments when the most issues happen, and also the most delight happens."
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