In an effort to combat racial bias in Airbnb’s booking process, the short-term-rental company will start hiding first names of guests from Oregon from hosts. Would-be renters will instead see prospective guests’ first initials until the booking is confirmed.
“This update is consistent with the voluntary settlement agreement we reached in 2019 with individuals in Oregon who raised concerns regarding the way guests’ names are displayed when they seek to book a listing,” the company said in a blog post announcing the move.
The program will be implemented by end of January and run for at least two years. At this point, the change is limited to Oregon residents, which no concrete plans to make it permanent or expand it.
“Given that the impact of this change is unknown, the implementation will be limited,” a company spokesperson said in an email.
The changes stem from the 2019 settlement of a lawsuit brought by three African-American women who claimed that requiring guests to share photos of their faces allowed hosts to discriminate against them on the basis of race. In 2016, a Harvard Business Review Journal study found that “guests with distinctively African-American names” were 16% less likely to be accepted on the platform than “identical guests with distinctively White names.”
This isn’t the first action Airbnb has taken to combat racial discrimination. The company has made changes to when and how profile pictures are shared and required hosts to sign anti-discrimination commitment. In 2020 Airbnb, with the help of the racial justice organization Color of Change, launched the Lighthouse Project to measure and combat racial bias on its platform.