Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is joining Airbnb to fight discrimination on the short term rental platform.
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced the hire in a blog post today, along with several other details about the company’s anti-discrimination work. Airbnb has been under fire lately for tacitly allowing discrimination against LGBT guests and people of color. A Harvard study found that renters with names perceived to be black were less likely to get a booking on the site, and that black hosts earned less on the platform for renting out their homes than white hosts. LGBT renters have also faced discrimination on Airbnb, and some have called for an ‘LGBT-friendly’ option on the site so that renters can feel more safe.
The Congressional Black Caucus urged Chesky to address the problem last month and questioned him about how discrimination had become so commonplace on the site. It seems that Airbnb is listening — in addition to hiring Holder as an advisor, the company also brought on former American Civil Liberties Union staffer Laura Murphy to review Airbnb for bias. Although the announcement came today, Holder and Murphy are already at work.
“We are honored that former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to join our team to help craft a world-class anti-discrimination policy,” Chesky wrote in his blog post. “While we have a policy that prohibits discrimination, we want this policy to be stronger. And we will require everyone who uses our platform to read and certify that they will follow this policy.” (Currently, hosts are not required to read the anti-discrimination policy before signing up and have to seek it out on their own.)
Chesky also acknowledged that Airbnb hasn’t been as swift as it should have been to address discrimination on the platform. “I know we’ve failed on that front previously,” Chesky wrote, adding that he’d thought a lot about why the company has been slow to address the issue. “We weren’t fully conscious of this issue when we designed the platform. After speaking to many of you, I have learned that there have at times been a lack of urgency to work on this, and we need to rectify that immediately,” he added.
Holder, of course, is no stranger to diversity and anti-discrimination initiatives — he led several reform platforms while serving as attorney general, including a push to include gender identity in Justice Department discrimination claims.
“I’m looking forward to working with Airbnb to develop and implement a world-class anti-discrimination policy,” Holder said in a statement. “Airbnb is committed to building a community where everyone can belong, no matter who they are or what they look like. I’m eager to help them craft policies that will be the model for companies who share Airbnb’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”