Hi community, I am Kate, Consumer Data Advocate at CHOICE. I am investigating Airbnb’s trust and safety mechanisms, particularly using algorithms to assess guests’ trustworthiness and automated decision-making being used to ban people from the platform.
I am calling on the community to help with any of these
Have you or someone you know worked at Airbnb? I’m looking to talk to current or former Airbnb staff who can shed light on this practice.
Are you an Airbnb host who has had a booking cancelled by Airbnb, either without explanation or because of the trust and safety policy? Or have you been suspended or restricted from the platform?
Are you an Airbnb guest who had your booking cancelled by Airbnb or was restricted from the platform?
If you can help with any of the above, please contact me. You can reach me here, or via firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter
We run a holiday apartment complex and Airbnb is one of many channels we use to sell our accommodation. We have been ‘Superhosts’ for some years.
It is very rare for Airbnb to cancel a booking, they will often block messages if they suspect you or the guest are trying to contact each other outside of the platform; they could potentially loose their commission . Sometimes the messages are still sent but with redacted portions or you’ll get a message saying you have breach their terms and conditions and don’t do it again. If someone does get banned, they just open another account using a different email address. Some smaller establishments won’t accept bookings from 1st, 2nd timers but I think this is more from in-home type hosting where they are using a spare bedroom within the host’s own home.
Airbnb have lots of motherhood statements and are quick to send warnings and threats to remove a listing if you (in their opinion) violate their terms. But these type of actions would be an extremely small percentage of their bookings, it’s bad for business and impacts their revenue stream. Other OTAs have similar systems but less publicity.
At the end of the day, Airbnb is now just another Online Travel Agent and their focus is on profits.
It sounds like an episode of Black Mirror, but we’ve increasingly been told about users being locked out of AirBNB with no avenues for dispute due to it’s algorithmic approach to how it handles customers. Here’s a snapshot of the data AirBNB uses.
They aren’t the only ones doing this, and you could argue that AirBNB isn’t an ‘essential’. However, this has pretty concerning ramifications about discrimination and access to goods and services in our society. Some experts have indicated it could be against the law, you can read more in our investigation.
We are also asking people to complete our poll, so we can deepen our understanding of people’s experiences and feelings towards the issues. If you have a moment, please fill it out and be sure to share your thoughts or discuss other examples here in the Community.
It is concerning when businesses rely solely on algorithms to make decisions about customers.
It is also worth noting that as an accommodation provider, platforms often don’t take any action when a report of actual poor behaviour/actions of guests (such as blocking the guest from the platform to protect other providers). When reporting such guests, usually a standard generic response, often not related to the issue at hand, is received…with no action taken. We had a recent one where we were message with malicious links/phishing links and fraudulent credit card details - the booking platform took no action and suggested we cancel the booking.
It seems they that some are happy to rely on their algorithms, but seem don’t seem to trust or action actual reports of bad guests.
I should also say that the principle aim of platforms is to make money. As AirBNB does provide some ‘insurance’ to hosts, they might be trying to minimise their ‘risks’ by screening guests at booking.
In relation to screening guests, I booked AirBNB accommodation in Sweden recently. After I had put in my credit card details, a message came up on screen asking me to take a photo of myself, after which they would confirm my booking. For me, that was just an extra layer of annoyance (I never have to do this when booking a hotel), so I did not add a photo. My booking was not processed. I have booked AirBNB places in the past with no problem, and have never caused problems for the host. I have what would be considered a ‘respectable’ occupation.