Last updated: 12:43 PM ET, Mon May 09 2016

Does Airbnb Have a Discrimination Problem?

Hotel & Resort | Patrick Clarke | May 09, 2016

Does Airbnb Have a Discrimination Problem?

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Short-term rental service Airbnb has come under fire of late for allegedly profiting off of 'illegal hotels' in major U.S. cities. But now the San Francisco-based company is making new headlines for another troubling reason.

Many African American users are expressing frustration with Airbnb over an issue the company acknowledges exists: Discrimination.

The problem has become so widespread that the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack has become a trending topic of conversation on Twitter and other social media websites.

Many black users taking to social media claim they've been denied bookings simply because of their name or appearance. 

Some have even admitted to faking various aspects of their Airbnb profile in order to secure a place to stay.

"We recognize that bias and discrimination present significant challenges, and we are taking steps to address them," Airbnb's head of diversity David King said in a statement to CNN.

READ MORE: Is Airbnb a Legitimate Threat to the Hotel Industry?

Although a recent Harvard study pinpoints the profile photo feature as a key contributor to the problem, it appears Airbnb has no plans to change up its design.

"[They] are one of the many tools that help hosts and guests connect with one another," added King.

READ MORE: Examining the State of Airbnb

But the issue extends beyond a user's profile picture. After all, the aforementioned study found that Airbnb hosts are even less likely to rent to users with African American sounding names. Researchers created 20 fake Airbnb profiles with stereotypically sounding black and white names and sent inquiries to approximately 6,400 listings across the U.S. Hosts agreed to rent to the fake profiles with white-sounding names 50 percent of the time, compared to 42 percent for black-sounding names.

Airbnb is moving forward with its efforts to educate hosts and guests but it's unclear whether that will be enough to invoke real change. In the meantime, a large portion of users may be forced to look to an entirely different platform. 


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