BIPOC Voices, Community Leaders, Key Topics, News & Events

Airbnb’s Project Lighthouse fights app’s racial profiling

About time.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Jul 30, 2020

I think it’s safe to say that all organizations, especially the bigger ones, have racists tactics, DNA’s or policies in place. The good news: several of them are trying to fix systemic racism. Among them, is Airbnb

Airbnb has been combing through their data since 2016, when they discovered Black users were being profiled. It was right around the time that #AirbnbWhileBlack was trending. The hashtag showcased stories of reservations being cancelled last minute, the need to change profile pictures to get approved, and lodging not being as clean as stated. Since 2016, Airbnb has removed 1.3 million users that were known to be racially biased. Project Lighthouse, the organization’s new initiative, began developments in 2018 and was set to properly launch late 2020. But in lieu of recent racist acts, the initiative launched on June 30. 

Project Lighthouse partnered with civil rights organizations: Color of Change, Upturn, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Center For Democracy & Technology, The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, LULAC, and the National Action Network. Project Lighthouse is exclusive to the U.S. with a hope to expand to all countries they operate in. The goal is to pinpoint when and where discrimination happens and then to stop it and put anti-discrimination policies in place. Some anti-discrimination policies they hope the initiative will expand on include:

  • Community Agreements: All hosts and guests must sign a Community Commitment and Nondiscrimination Policy upon signing up. This encourages users to report discrimination to Airbnb who will then investigate the issue and take action. Some include full refunds or relocating. 
  • Profile Picture Protection: Profile pictures are only displayed after a booking is confirmed. This is to take out the bias.
  • Instant Booking: Allows hosts not to see name or photo until your stay is already in their queue.

In addition to fighting for social justice, Airbnb recently hosted a virtual summer festival to honor the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics. Although, Airbnb is committed to making strides in social justice, many Black individuals are still hesitant to use the platform. To help combat this uncertainty, Million Mile Secrets, (a travel company), created Airbnb while Black: How to avoid racism while traveling. Million Mile Secrets recommends NABHOOD if you are considering traveling without Airbnb. The National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators, and Directors works to circulate wealth in the Black community. You can select from their list of Black-owned hotels on their website.