Member accounts terminated with extreme prejudice for holding “incorrect” political opinions.
After coming under heavy fire and condemnation last year over perceived racial discrimination, AirBnB seems to have turned to a new type of discrimination, this time over political opinions.
The San Francisco-based peer-to-peer platform allows travelers to book reservations in privately owned homes and properties. On Saturday, August 5, 2017, several members using this online service suddenly found both their reservations and accounts terminated. Citing “a violation of our Terms of Service,” yet refusing to specify the nature of this alleged violation, the emailed notifications they received included such declarations as, “This reservation will not be reinstated” and that “AirBnB reserves the right to make the final determination with respect to such matters, and this decision will not be reversed.”
The terminated accounts had one thing in common: all belonged to individuals identifying right-of-center on the political spectrum.
Individual inquiries to AirBnB for specifics regarding the reason for termination yielded no further explanation or clarification of the alleged TOS violation. Instead, a response letter arrived repeating the first letter’s message, but more emphatically. In addition to twice reiterating a pre-emptive refusal of any potential appeal or reconsideration, the second letter adds, “We are not obligated to provide an explanation for the action taken against your account. Furthermore, we are not liable to you in any way with respect to disabling or cancelling your account.”
These sudden terminations, combined with an adamant refusal to provide any specifics about the alleged ToS “violation” necessitating them, prompted a rash of speculation over the weekend about whether AirBnB “stalks” its users online and engages in political profiling. The fact that those terminated created no issue of actual personal conduct while using the platform, nor had any history of negative reviews by other users, is difficult to ignore.
One owner of a terminated AirBnB account told us, “My account had been active for three years, with only good reviews, and only positive interactions between myself and my hosts. I’ve had extremely good experiences with AirBnB before this, so at first I thought there was some sort of mix up and replied to the original email asking for clarification about the issue.”
“When they said they had no obligation to say which rule or explain themselves, that’s when I started to get suspicious that it was political discrimination.” He later added that all four people in his group, who were confirmed guests for the same house, had their accounts terminated by AirBnB as well.
What began as speculation later appeared to be confirmed. A statement allegedly obtained from an AirBnB representative states:
“In 2016 we established the Airbnb Community Commitment reflecting our belief that to make good on our mission of belonging, those who are members of the Airbnb community accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. We asked all members of the Airbnb to affirmatively sign on to this commitment. When through our background check processes or from input of our community we identify and determine that there are those who would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical to the Airbnb Community Commitment, we seek to take appropriate action including, as in this case, removing them from the platform.”
By contrast, AirBnB has not, to the best of our knowledge, terminated any accounts held by persons affiliated or associated with leftist groups that have a demonstrable history of instigating violence, committing vandalism, and provoking confrontation with law enforcement, even though such persons arguably pose a more obvious potential threat to the safety of the AirBnB community.
The accounts terminated by AirBnB had one more thing in common: all belonged to individuals planning to attend the upcoming “Unite the Right” rally scheduled for Saturday, August 12th in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Ironically, this rally intends to be unprecedentedly inclusive of the entire spectrum of views and people on the political right, and to encourage setting aside differences to focus upon mutual goals and objectives.