- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

Airbnb has hired former Attorney General Eric Holder as an adviser to help devise its new anti-discrimination policy — part of the company’s latest effort to address complaints of racism by some users.

“While we have a policy that prohibits discrimination, we want this policy to be stronger,” wrote Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in message posted Wednesday on the company’s website. “And we will require everyone who uses our platform to read and certify that they will follow this policy.”

The company, which facilitates the short-term rental of homes by occupants, has been grappling with complaints of discrimination and racism by would-be minority renters who recount experiences including canceled reservations and the inability to secure reservations at all.

Those complaints were bolstered by a recently released Harvard Business School study that found rental requests “from guests with distinctively African-American names are roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than identical guests with distinctively white names.”

Touching on the tension between police and minority communities in the wake of recent incidents including the fatal shooting of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana as well as the targeted killing of police officers, Mr. Chesky wrote that the company was committed to taking the steps it could to talk more openly about bias and discrimination.

“But it’s not enough to just offer our sympathies,” he wrote. “We aren’t so naive to think that one company can solve these problems, but we understand that we have an obligation to be honest about our own shortcomings, and do more to get our house in order.”

The company has taken prior steps to address the discrimination complaints, banning some hosts who have denied rentals based on race or gender identity. Mr. Holder isn’t the first outside expert brought on to aid in the review effort - in June the company announced that Laura Murphy, former chief of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington, D.C., was helping to oversee the full-scale review of Airbnb’s platform.

In a statement, Mr. Holder said was looking forward to helping the company craft and implement “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,” he said. “I’m eager to help them craft policies that will be the model for companies who share Airbnb’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

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