Accommodation rental service Airbnb is introducing stronger anti-discrimination rules, after a string of homophobic and racist incidents.
The service allows users to rent out their own rooms to strangers seeking a place to stay.
However, it has faced a string of incidents where people have been rejected from rentals because of their sexuality or race.
Though the site has long banned users who actively discriminate, today it announced stringent new rules making it clear that discrimination is against the rules.
The new policy was implemented with input from the American Civil Liberties Union and US Attorney General Eric Holder. Under the policy, the site will guarantee a discrimination-free safe place to say, and will help users find alternative accommodation if they do experience discrimination.
In a message to all users, CEO Brian Chesky wrote: “At the heart of our mission is the idea that people are fundamentally good and every community is a place where you can belong. We don’t say this because it sounds nice. It’s the goal that everyone at Airbnb works towards every day – because we’ve all seen how when we live together, we better understand each other.
“Discrimination is the opposite of belonging, and its existence on our platform jeopardises this core mission. Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them.
“Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry. I take responsibility for any pain or frustration this has caused members of our community. We will not only make this right; we will work to set an example that other companies can follow.”
He added: “Beginning November 1, everyone who uses Airbnb must agree to a stronger, more detailed nondiscrimination policy. We aren’t just asking you to check a box associated with a long legal document.
“We’re asking everyone to agree to something we’re calling the Airbnb Community Commitment, which says: ‘We believe that no matter who you are, where you are from, or where you travel, you should be able to belong in the Airbnb community. By joining this community, you commit to treat all fellow members of this community, regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, with respect, and without judgment or bias.’
“We’ll be implementing a new policy called Open Doors. Starting October 1st, if a Guest anywhere in the world feels like they have been discriminated against in violation of our policy – in trying to book a listing, having a booking canceled, or in any other interaction with a host – we will find that Guest a similar place to stay if one is available on Airbnb, or if not, we will find them an alternative accommodation elsewhere.
“This program will also apply retroactively to any Guest who reported discrimination prior to today. All of these Guests will be offered booking assistance for their next trip.”
He added: “These steps are just the beginning, not the end, of our efforts to combat bias and discrimination.
“While we as a company have been slow on this issue, I am now asking you the community to help us lead the way forward. Every time you make someone else feel like they belong, that person feels accepted and safe to be themselves. While this may sound like a small act of kindness, we are a community of millions of people strong. Imagine what we can do together.”