Airbnb hosts in Oregon will soon see only the initials of certain potential tenants, not their full names, in a change designed to prevent discrimination against black users in the online accommodation market.
The new policy stems from a settlement of a lawsuit where hosts could reject guests because they conclude potential tenants are black based on their first names.
The change takes effect on January 31 and will last for at least two years. It will only apply in Oregon – it won’t even cover people from other states trying to rent an Airbnb listing in Oregon, according to the company.
A spokeswoman for Airbnb said Thursday that the company “will assess the impact of this change to understand if there are any lessons from this work that can inform future efforts to address stigma.”
In 2017, three black women in Oregon sued Airbnb, claiming that the company’s requirement that customers post full names and photos allowed hosts to discriminate based on race, in violation of the law. State law on public housing.
changed their policy the following year so that hosts could only see a photo after accepting a reservation. The San Francisco-based company settled the lawsuit in 2019 and posted a post about Oregon’s new policy on its site late last month.
Airbnb previously said it will start measuring and reducing the discrimination people encounter when booking or staying on the site.
“Discrimination is based on perception – and on Airbnb people perceive race from things like first names and profile photos,” the company said in a 2020 blog. The company said it was working with civil rights groups on research “to understand when and where racial discrimination occurs on our platform and the effectiveness of policies that combat it.”