Airbnb to hide guest names in Oregon in response to racial bias lawsuit

Hosts will see only the initials of users until the booking is confirmed.

Airbnb is limiting how hosts in Oregon see guest profiles displayed on the app in an effort to combat racial discrimination in the state.

The new policy begins Jan. 31, when hosts will see only the initials of users until the booking is confirmed, The Washington Post reports. The move is linked to the 2019 settlement of a lawsuit that was brought against the company by three Black women in Oregon who said the site allowed vacation rental owners to discriminate against Black people.

The Airbnb logo is displayed on a computer screen on August 3, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

The Associated Press previously reported that Airbnb changed its policies in 2018 so that photos would only be shown to hosts after they accept a booking. The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that the three Black women who sued the platform, Pat Harrington, Carlotta Franklin, and Ebony Price, alleged that by requiring and disclosing users’ full names and photographs, Airbnb enabled its hosts to discriminate against Black users in violation of Oregon’s public accommodation laws.

After the 2019 settlement announcement, Airbnb and the plaintiffs’ attorneys said in separate statements that the platform had renewed its commitment to “review and update the way profile names are displayed to hosts as part of the booking process.”

In a Dec. 22 blog post, the company outlined its efforts to weed out racial bias on its platform.

“Given that the impact of this change is unknown, the implementation will be limited” to Oregon, Airbnb spokeswoman Liz DeBold Fusco said in a statement to NBC News about the experimental new policy.

“This update is consistent with the voluntary settlement agreement we reached in 2019 with individuals in Oregon who raised concerns regarding the way guests’ names are displayed when they seek to book a listing,” according to the Airbnb statement. “As part of our ongoing work, we will take any learnings from this process and use them to inform future efforts to fight bias.”

In June 2020, Airbnb launched Project Lighthouse, an initiative in partnership with nonprofit advocacy group Color Of Change, and with guidance from organizations like Upturn, theGrio reported. Through Project Lighthouse, the company researches when and where racial discrimination happens on the platform and the effectiveness of policies that fight it.

“While we have made progress, we have much more to do and continue working with our Hosts and guests, and with civil rights leaders to make our community more inclusive,” Airbnb wrote in an unsigned statement, per the report. 

“If they take this, they analyze it using Project Lighthouse, they report those findings to the public, and then consider whether to implement this policy more broadly, that’s what would be worth praising and applauding,” said anti-discrimination activist Johnny Mathias of Color of Change.

It remains to be seen how Airbnb’s new policy in Oregon pans out.

This article contains additional reporting from The Associated Press.

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The post Airbnb to hide guest names in Oregon in response to racial bias lawsuit appeared first on TheGrio.

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