In recent weeks, real estate rental service Airbnb has been making news for all the wrong reasons. While most transactions within the Airbnb system occur without a hitch, the company has suffered from bad actors. To prevent rentals from turning into “party houses” without the host’s permission, Airbnb proposes to weed out the bad actors. But how will it do so without incurring a discrimination charge?
In many ways, it’s hard not to sympathize with Airbnb. For one thing, the company offers a brilliant take on the sharing economy. Like Uber or Lyft, Airbnb allows regular folks to take an extra room (or even a whole house) and put it up for rent. Unlike conventional renting agreements – which may take significant time and money – the transactions occur on Airbnb’s platform.
In other words, homeowners can focus on making their rooms/properties attractive to the market.
Second, and more importantly, Airbnb facilitates entrepreneurialism. If you think about it, so many people own extra space that goes to waste. Thus, why not make economic use of that space for people who may desire it (for whatever reason). It’s the thesis that drives Uber and Lyft. And it’s also had a profound influence on the economy.
Naturally, Airbnb wants to protect their intellectual property. But can it do so without bringing upon them charges of discrimination?
Can Airbnb Protect Itself Without Discrimination Charges?
An incredibly tricky scenario awaits Airbnb. Clearly, the company must protect its brand and eliminate bad actors. But in doing so, it must avoid even the appearance of discrimination.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure if they can accomplish that goal. Reality dictates that age, gender, and race are the best forecasting tools for criminality. Why? Because these are the most common metrics for which we categorize people.
Furthermore, I’m not sure why this is so shocking to people. After all, everyone discriminates against each other daily. For instance, when law enforcement seeks the public’s help in apprehending a suspect, do they not utilize the above metrics? Or do they say, there’s a person at large?
Sadly, society today doesn’t view issues through the most rational of lenses. Therefore, even though Airbnb guests should have every right to discriminate – would you have just anybody live in your home? – they can’t because they’re stymied by unreasonable laws.
Thus, I’m not sure how this will turn out for Airbnb. Yes, the company has a discrimination problem. Ironically, it all has to do with the inability to discriminate.