#AirbnbWhileBlack highlights the racism in the sharing economy

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The Airbnb experience can sometimes be deeply challenging for people of color, and they are telling their stories on Twitter as part of a campaign called #AirbnbWhileBlack.


According to a study by Harvard Business Review, people with “African-American sounding names were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted [as guests] than their white-sounding counterparts.”

Additionally, a separate Harvard Business School study found that black hosts received on average 12 percent less money for the rentals.


NPR hosted a Twitter chat centered around the hashtag on Friday in order to discuss the allegations of discrimination by hosts when black people use Airbnb. Potential travelers who use the service backed up the academic findings with their own experiences.


On its website, Airbnb describes itself as an “open market” service, but says it prohibits “content that promotes discrimination, bigotry, racism, hatred, harassment or harm against any individual or group, and we require all users to comply with local laws and regulations.”


Yet many say that despite the policy, hosts can refuse a potential renter without giving a reason, making it hard to prove the reason is discriminatory, or that a guest could be refused to due to an unconscious bias.

In a statement to Mashable, Airbnb’s Head of Diversity and Belonging David King said the company recognizes that “bias and discrimination present significant challenges, and we are taking steps to address them.” King was hired last month, after the company began training employees in discriminatory practices.


Quirtina Crittenden, who is black, told NPR that she was frequently declined on Airbnb, until she started using the name "Tina" and changed her profile picture to a landscape photo. Since then, she said she's "never had an issues with Airbnb."

Some black users, however, said they had never had this experience while using Airbnb.


In another PR problem for Airbnb earlier this year, the service admitted to purging about 1,500 New York listings ahead of its data release. Airbnb said the data cleanse — which occured in its biggest market — was an effort to "remove listings that appeared to be controlled by commercial operators."

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