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Airbnb Releases Updated Nondiscrimination Policy

Responding to allegations of racial discrimination on the part of some of its hosts, vacation-rental company Airbnb released an updated antidiscrimination policy on Thursday.

According to the guidelines, hosts are barred from declining stay requests or listing preferences based on race, ethnicity, origin, gender, sexual orientation, and disability; violators risk being suspended or removed from Airbnb. 

Additionally, as part of the new "Open Doors" program, an Airbnb team will work to arrange bookings at comparable lodgings on the site for users who say a host discriminated against them.

As for hosts, starting on November 1 they'll all have to agree to a "Community Commitment" pledging to treat all users of the site with respect and without judgment or bias. Soon, hosts who reject a stay request for a certain period will have those dates blocked on their availability calendars to prevent them from renting to other guests. Also, Airbnb says it will employ a full-time team to fight host bias.

While the company says it will expand its Instant Book feature, which allows guests to book rooms without having to wait for approval from the host, it stopped short of removing guest photos—a major contributor to discrimination by hosts, according to some critics.

Airbnb began reviewing its antidiscrimination policy in June, following charges of bias by minority customers and a Harvard study that found users with African-American-sounding names had a harder time than others renting rooms through the service.