Fighting for the Right Thing

Human beings can boast about having a wide variety of luxuries at their disposal. If we dig into these luxuries, they really do cover a wide expanse, but a particular one that is apparent across all areas would be how we can use our resources in whichever we deem fit. Such a dynamic enables us big time in terms of optimizing the said resources and satisfy a given need. It also helps us with using what we have as a stepping stone on the way to acquire something even greater. Now, we have used this luxury to put-together various productive journeys, except none of them were quite like technology. The avenues offered by technology didn’t just revolve around enhancing our present. Instead, they brought in so many growth avenues that we able to literally pick and choose which frontier we wanted to pursue over the long-term. While we surely made some big strides on the back of technology, we still can’t overlook the occasions when its features were used to encourage certain negative factors, and a recent decision from Airbnb tries to cut back on them.

Airbnb has announced an ethically-driven decision to change the way guest profiles will be displayed on its app. Focused on preventing racial discrimination among hosts, the change will mean that hosts will now only see guest initials instead of their full name. Furthermore, the guests are no longer required to provide their picture to get a booking done, but it is subjective to hosts’ policies, which might mandate a photograph during the booking process. According to some reports, the change is expected to go into effect as late as 31st January, 2022, and for now, it will only be applicable within the Oregon region.

The decision seemingly has a lot to do with the lawsuit filed against Airbnb in 2018 for allowing racial discrimination on its platform, and yes, the lawsuit was well rooted in facts. Many hotels and other lodgings have shown a consistent tendency to reject bookings from black Airbnb users. The notion was strongly validated by a study conducted in 2016. As per the study, Black-sounding names on Airbnb were 16% less likely to have their bookings confirmed when compared to the names that sounded white.

After reaching settlement in the 2018 case, Airbnb vowed to actively fight discrimination, and it did really make some progressive moves in the right direction such as introducing Project Lighthouse. However, the call to introduce its latest move in just Oregon has raised some doubts. Airbnb spokesperson, Liz DeBold Fusco, issued an explanation by saying:

“As part of our ongoing work, we will take any learnings from this process and use them to inform future efforts to fight bias.”

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