Airbnb conducting study to try to eliminate discrimination by hosts

The national conversation about racism and discrimination in the wake of the murder of George Floyd has accelerated a study by Airbnb.

The online lodging company wants to make sure that hosts aren't refusing to rent to people because of race or ethnicity so it's informing hosts and guests that it would like to use their data anonymously to help root out and eliminate discrimination.

If you're not a person of color, it may have never dawned on you that an Airbnb host might look at someone's profile picture or name and decide not to rent to them based on their perceived race or ethnicity.

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But Airbnb says in just the past four years, it has removed 1.3 million people from its website for that very reason.

"It really didn't ever cross my mind that that would be a problem," said Airbnb host Adrienne Gross of Cary.

As she gave a tour of the newest rental she and her husband own in Apex, she noted the multi-lingual sign outside the front door.

"Welcome in any language," she said.

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Gross and her husband have been hosting Airbnb rentals for nearly five years.

They say they would never turn away a guest because of race.

"It behooves you as a host to treat everybody fairly and see them as people who just need a place to stay," she said. "And all we expect from our guests no matter who they are is that they treat our places with respect."

So the Gross' are more than happy to take part in Airbnb's study.

The company has posted a video about what it's calling Project Lighthouse on its website.

"By pinpointing when discrimination might be happening we can work together to put a stop to it. This begins with using information people on airbnb already share like first names and profile photos to help us understand the race someone else my see them as," the video says in part.

Gross believes it's a sincere effort mirrored by other American business now looking closely at diversity and inclusion.

"They really are concerned that people are treated equitably and that when they need a place to stay that that's all that should matter. So I don't see why any host with a kind heart who cares about people in general would have a problem with it," she said.

Gross says her job as an Airbnb host also gets right to the heart of her Christianity.

She even quoted two bible verses from the old and new testaments that speak to justice, kindness, humility, and rest for the weary.

"We don't see ourselves as better than anybody else because of the color of our skin," she said, "And we want people when they stay at any of our properties to see that we are kind, we are humble, we are just offering a hospitable place for them to rest."

She hopes the Airbnb study will help make sure all guests are treated that way in the future -- no matter the color of their skin.
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