As of January 31 in the state of Oregon, United States, the names of people who wish to book a place or activity through the Airbnb platform will be masked. The goal: to prevent discrimination.
Only the initials of the person making the request will be disclosed to hosts and hostesses offering accommodations or activities in Oregon. The full name will not be displayed until the reservation is confirmed. Since 2018, Internet users also have the choice not to display their profile picture before this step.
A 2016 study by Harvard Business School analyzed some 6,400 ads on the social platform. In particular, the findings revealed that at equal announcement, people with black-sounding names were 16% less likely than those with white-sounding names to have their reservation confirmed.
The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack (Airbnb when you are a black person) circulated a lot in 2015 and 2016 on social networks. The posts uncovered lived stories of members of the black community on the platform.
A class action lawsuit was launched in 2017 in Oregon by African-American Patricia Harrington, who denounced Airbnb’s racial bias by asking internet users to post a photo and indicate their name to book accommodation or an activity.
Efforts to fight discrimination
In an agreement reached in 2019, the platform committed to
review and update the way profile names are displayed to Hosts and Hostesses during the reservation process.
In 2020, the company also launched the Lighthouse program, an initiative aimed at detecting discriminatory practices on its site.
Asked by the specialized site The Verge, Airbnb spokesperson Liz DeBold Fusco did not wish to specify whether the new measure which will come into force on January 31 in Oregon would be extended elsewhere in the world.