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A hashtag claims Airbnb racism is real, and Harvard study agrees

People are using the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack to highlight a problem with the sharing economy.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein

Look on Twitter for the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack, and you'll find a number of protests that racism is alive in the sharing economy.

A Harvard Business School study published earlier this year found that having a "distinctively African American name" led to being 16 percent less likely to be accepted at Airbnb, The Guardian reported on Thursday. And there are a growing number of people that have taken to Twitter claiming that changing their profiles from black to white led to rooms suddenly becoming available again, illustrating racial bias.

David King, Airbnb's director of diversity, told NPR last month the company is aware of discrimination on its service and wants to address it.

Others on the #AirbnbWhileBlack hashtag suggest the racism happens across other lines, too. It's unfortunate but probably not surprising: as long as services like Airbnb have accounts where everyone can view each other's names and faces, discrimination can occur.

"Profile photos are an important part of our community and are one of the many tools that help hosts and guests connect with one another," King said in a statement. "We welcome the opportunity to work with anyone that can help us reduce potential discrimination in the Airbnb community."