Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky reaffirmed his company’s decision to ban white supremacists and other proponents of Nazi ideology from his company’s service following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend. “The violence, racism and hatred demonstrated by neo-Nazis, the alt-right, and white supremacists should have no place in this world,” Chesky writes in a statement obtained by The Verge. “Airbnb will continue to stand for acceptance, and we will continue to do all we can to enforce our community commitment.”
Prior to the “Unite the Right” rally this past weekend, which resulted in the death of one woman and injuries to dozens of other anti-fascist protestors, Airbnb took notice of certain users utilizing its platform to plan gatherings and coordinate lodging for attendees. Airbnb acted quick in that instance to remove the users and shut down affiliated accounts that began springing up in their place.
“When through our background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform,” the company said in a statement issued last week, ahead of the event.
Airbnb’s Community Commitment is the anti-discrimination policy, first published last October, that it now makes every host and guest sign prior to using the platform. It was originally devised to fight back against racism on its platform, by holding hosts to a higher standard of decency by banning activities like screening guests for race, gender, or sexual orientation or cancelling confirmed reservations for bigoted reasons — incidents that have plagued Airbnb’s platform since its inception.
However, in light of the more brazen and public displays of racism and white supremacy that have sprouted up since the election of President Donald Trump, Airbnb is now using its Community Commitment to prevent white nationalists and other fringe political groups from using its platform. It may on the surface appear to be a thorny gray area, given Airbnb is a housing platform subject to specific anti-discrimination laws. Yet because political affiliation is not a protected class in the same sense as race, gender, or sexual orientation, Airbnb says it has no qualms keeping neo-Nazis and other white nationalist groups from using its service.
In this case, Airbnb is citing the real, physical violence that stemmed from the rally as justification for why it preemptively banned users from acquiring lodging. “Earlier this month, we learned that some people were organizing to stay in and hold a series of after parties at several Airbnb listings while in town to attend this terrible event,” Chesky writes. “We require those who are members of the Airbnb community to accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. When we see people pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we take appropriate action. In this case, last week, we removed these people from Airbnb.”
Numerous other tech companies have done the same today, condemning the actions of the “Unite the Right” attendees and distancing themselves from affiliated groups, websites, and organizations. The gaming chat service Discord shut down accounts and a server associated with white supremacists; GoDaddy forced the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer off its registrar system; and after Daily Stormer relocated using Google’s service, Google announced plans to ban the site from its registrar, too.