Gregory Selden, a 25-year-old black man who claims to have faced racial discrimination from an Airbnb host, is now suing the community-driven hospitality company for violating the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act by denying him a room.
According to the complaint, a host with the screen name "Paul" rejected Selden's application to rent a listing in Philadelphia on March 2015. On the same day his request was denied, Selden created two fake profiles, suspecting that he was being discriminated against based on his race.
"Jessie" was the first phony account Selden created. Selden and Jessie had similar demographics, but Jessie was white. Selden also created another profile for "Todd", "an older white male [with] no education information ... entered for him," says the report. Both imitation profiles requested accommodation from Paul on the same dates that Selden did. Unlike Selden's account, both were approved.
Selden later alerted Airbnb of this, but Airbnb did not respond. Later, Selden confronted Paul and received a response that "people like [him] were simply victimizing [themselves]." Selden then took his frustration to Twitter and began a hashtag, #AirbnbWhileBlack.
Through the hashtag, many Twitter users shared similar stories of facing discrimination while using the service:
On May 11, David King, director of diversity at Airbnb, made a blog post on the Airbnb website , setting goals for Airbnb to combat racial discrimination and bias. According to the post, the service has implemented new policies, including providing unconscious bias training to greater than 5,000 hosts, improving their customer service and using technology to fight bias.
Previously, Airbnb has run into conflict with city governments. In a recent study conducted by the Harvard Business School, guests with African-American sounding names were 16% more likely to be rejected by Airbnb hosts than guests with stereotypically white-sounding names.