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Airbnb introduces policy to combat discrimination

The room-booking company says it's making changes to ward off repeated discrimination complaints.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
Carl Court, Getty Images

Following months of complaints that Airbnb has a discrimination problem, the online home-sharing service is responding to the matter.

San Francisco-based Airbnb has released a 32-page report (PDF) focusing on a new nondiscrimination policy, the company announced by way of a blog post Thursday. The new policy includes asking users to agree to a "community commitment" that could go into effect starting next month. The commitment asks hosts to not turn away customers based on their race, religion, nationality, disability, gender or age.

Other changes include providing assistance to those who feel they've been discriminated against, setting public diversity goals and antibias training for all staffers, and working with historically black colleges and universities to strengthen their recruitment pipeline.

The move comes after a number of black Airbnb users said their booking reservations were denied, and after a Harvard Business School study (PDF) found that having a "distinctively African-American name" led to being 16 percent less likely to be accepted at Airbnb. Complaints also led to the situation being publicized on Twitter, via the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky apologized Thursday and said the company has "been slow to address these problems." He said that since June, Airbnb has been seeking advice from former US Attorney General Eric Holder and from Laura Murphy, a former legal head at the ACLU.