Airbnb launches anti-racial-discrimination initiative

US: As global protests over systemic racial injustices and inequalities continue, Airbnb is announcing the launch of an anti-discrimination initiative in collaboration with Colour of Change.

By measuring and monitoring user activity, the company hopes to eliminate racial discrimination on its platform.

The project will measure discrimination based on perception, using a unique, privacy-centric methodology that both determines a user’s assumed ethnicity and the discrepancy in their experiences which can be attributed to racial biases. Known as Project Lighthouse, privacy advocates have ensured that this data is not associated with individual accounts.

Airbnb hopes that the partnership with Colour of Change, one of the largest online racial justice organisations, will ensure the project’s success. The group will also advise Airbnb on strengthening its commitment to civil rights and uncovering racial biases.

Rashad Robinson, Colour of Change President, said: “Silicon Valley has a long way to go to constructively engage with civil rights groups by proactively, not reactively, seeking out our expertise to build platforms that serve Black people instead of harming us. Airbnb is setting an important precedent by taking measurable steps to examine and dismantle discriminatory online systems.”

Project Lighthouse has been in development for around two years, with support from a variety of other anti-racism organisations. Its specific aims include examining reservations, reviews, and customer support in order to determine how these interactions are affected by racism.

Airbnb itself has been engaged in fighting racial-based discrimination since its first civil rights audit in 2016. The company released a three-year review of its efforts in 2019, which showed the company’s removal of guest photos, the creation of an anti-discrimination product team, and the creation and enforcement of a non-discrimination policy.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO, said: “We have made significant progress in the last few years to address painful stories of individuals who had requests to book a listing rejected and other negative experiences because of their race. Our purpose is to create belonging, and even one incident is an affront to our values.”

Airbnb had previously delayed its post-COVID travel update as a result of global protests. The company has, as of late 2019, removed over 1.2 million users as a result of its anti-discrimination policy.