AirBnB’s Corrosive Community Commitment

Just got an email from Airbnb regarding their new “Community Commitment”. It reads:

“You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.”

Now to be clear, this isn’t just about nice words, it has real teeth. If you don’t make this pledge, starting November 1st, you will be prohibited from either hosting or booking with the service.

I don’t know specifically where this is coming from, though anti-discrimination is of course perennially in the air. However, I am extremely sorry to see AirBnB either fall in with the one-size-fits-all crowd or feel it has been pushed to this action by dominating regulators and other pressure groups.

I think people should feel safe as both vendor and customer with AirBnB, I have used it repeatedly and been very pleased. I regularly encourage others to use it. However, AirBnB provides a service which is extremely intimate and potentially dangerous. The easiest remedy to this is prudent discrimination. They already provide many discriminatory factors like ability to pay, prior ratings, etc. Their list above is simply eliminating an arbitrary list of politically unfavored factors, factors that could be important filtering criteria for certain market segments.

The clearest example is likely women-only properties. For either hosts who aren’t comfortable with strange men in their homes or women who would like to (or may need to for religious reasons) travel in female only environments, gender discrimination is a completely reasonable idea. In fact AirBnB combined with this kind of differentiated marketing provides income and accommodation opportunities unavailable to the market before. Discrimination actually HELPS the woman with a room to rent and the woman who wants to travel. Under the statement above this kind of property seemingly would be disallowed.

This new policy is really a clumsy cookie cutter anachronism in an age of personalization and specialization, of ever more finely sliced market segments and niches.

I hope the “community” will kick back against this new “commitment” and AirBnB will rethink and rescind this restriction on the use of its great service.

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