Airbnb hires former US Attorney General Eric Holder

Airbnb is bringing on a big name to show its commitment to tackling discrimination.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has joined Airbnb to help craft anti-discrimination policies for the home-rental company following reports of "widespread discrimination against African-American guests".

In a blog post, Brian Chesky, the company's chief executive, said the hire comes as Airbnb works to fight "bias and discrimination" on the platform, a concern that users had expressed to the company.

Airbnb's current policy tells hosts that they are required to comply with local laws, including, in the USA, federal anti-discrimination laws.

Critics have said that by creating a digital space that allowed individuals to rent out their homes and apartments, and more importantly pick and choose to whom they rent, Airbnb unwittingly enabled its hosts to act on their biases. In an effort led by Laura Murphy, former head of the ACLU Washington, D.C. legislative office, the company is meeting with civil rights leaders and getting input from Airbnb employees.

Now, according to Chesky's blog, Holder will help Airbnb craft a "world-class anti-discrimination policy". "Airbnb is committed to building a community where everyone can belong, no matter who they are or what they look like".

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"This process isn't close to being over, but we want to be as transparent as possible along the way because I know we've failed on that front previously", Chesky wrote.

To that end, the company also engaged well-known anti-bias expert Robert Livingston of Harvard University to help it improve its unconscious bias training. "And we will require everyone who uses our platform to read and certify that they will follow this policy".

A civil-rights lawsuit was also launched against Airbnb when a black user alleged that his complaints of being discriminated against were ignored by the company.

Uber Technologies Inc., another highly valued San Francisco startup that faces regulatory pressure, set up a US safety advisory board in November that included Margaret Richardson, the former chief of staff to Holder.

For Holder, who returned to Covington & Burling past year after stepping down as the first African-American attorney general, the task marks the second high-profile step into the sharing economy.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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