In Oregon (United States), owners renting accommodation on AirBnb will no longer be able, from January 31, to see the first names of users requesting to book a stay, the American company announced on December 22. This measure aims to fight against discrimination and to prevent owners from refusing a reservation on the basis of the supposed origin of a user. When it takes effect, Airbnb hosts will only see the user’s initials when making reservation requests, and will only discover the full first name after validating the transaction.
This policy change, confined to this state of the United States, is the result of a class action lawsuit launched in 2017 by Patricia Harrington, a black woman who believes that the company allowed racial discrimination by asking its users to post their name and photo to request a reservation. Two other black women, Carlotta Franklin and Ebony Price, had joined this class action, which was the subject of a legal agreement in 2019. At the time, Airbnb announced that it was reviewing its policy regarding the name of its users.
A study on discrimination
In 2015, an experiment conducted by three Harvard Business School researchers on 6,400 Airbnb listings in the United States determined that users with African-American sounding names were 16% less likely to have their reservation accepted than those having a name suggesting they were white. Alerted by several campaigns against discrimination, the company has since launched a project, Lighthouse, intended to measure the extent of discrimination on its platform and to think about solutions against the phenomenon.
Three years later, the American company introduced a new measure by deciding to hide the profile photos of users making a reservation request, the owner only discovering the photo after accepting the stay request. Asked by the American site The Verge, Airbnb spokesperson Liz DeBold Fusco did not say whether the experiment carried out in Oregon was intended to be extended to other regions of the world.