Airbnb’s new experiment to reduce racism

In an effort to curb racial bias, Airbnb will only show certain hosts a guest’s 1st initial until after booking.

Airbnb has been trying to curb racism on its platform for several years. Its next move? Temporarily hiding names from hosts.

Now, hosts in Oregon will only see a prospective guest’s 1st initial until the booking is confirmed, at which point the guest’s full name is revealed.

The test begins on Jan. 31 and will run for 2 years, per NBC News.

But why Oregon?

In 2019, Airbnb settled a lawsuit in which 3 Black women alleged that requiring full names and photos allowed hosts to discriminate against potential guests based on race.

The complaint claimed Airbnb was in violation of Oregon’s public accommodation laws.

And past studies have indicated racial bias

In 2014, researchers ran an experiment. They reached out to ~6.4k US hosts as prospective guests, identical except for their names. 

They found guests with Black-sounding names were ~16% less likely to be accepted by Airbnb hosts.

This isn’t the 1st study to show bias based on names, either

  • A 2017 study found that job applicants with Asian last names were 28% less likely to get an interview
  • A 2021 study found that people with white-sounding names received higher response rates from landlords than applicants with African American- and Latino-sounding names.
  • A 2016 study found that in some cities, rideshare passengers with Black-sounding names faced longer wait times and more cancellations.

Airbnb has responded with various measures over the years, including:

  • Anti-bias training for users
  • Encouraging hosts to accept instant bookings
  • A policy to rebook guests who report discrimination

This new test is just the latest in an ongoing battle.

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