July 25, 2016
The debate over discrimination on Airbnb’s home-sharing platform is coming to the Democratic National Convention this week.
A coalition critical of the service announced on Monday it would use the convention to publicize the discrimination allegations on television and in person to delegates attending the event in Philadelphia. And Airbnb is planning its own event to send the message that it takes the alleged bias seriously.
The coalition, Share Better, will air an advertisement on broadcast and cable television in Philadelphia that features a black woman, Quirtina Crittenden, talking about discrimination she has faced while trying to secure lodging through Airbnb.
Crittenden says in the ad that she has been declined by Airbnb hosts, only to see later that the listing was still available for the dates she has requested. Her story was reported by NPR in April, as criticism of the company mounted.
“I hope you’ll stand with me and others and tell Airbnb they should be doing more to stop racial discrimination,” she says in the spot. “Because we deserve better.”
The ad will air in Philadelphia on NBC, and cable networks MSNBC, CNBC and CNN. Share Better has also bought time on the three cable channels in New York.
That will be coupled with individuals handing out print materials making the coalition’s case around the arena that is hosting the convention and local hotels. There will also be a truck displaying the video ad in the city. The coalition also says it has bought full-page ads in USA Today to press its case.
Share Better is a New York-based coalition of housing advocates and lawmakers who want stricter rules for home-sharing providers, but has been linked to parts of the hotel industry and a powerful union that represent hotel employees. The hotel industry has fought against Airbnb’s growth.
Airbnb, meanwhile, is hosting an event to honor civil rights activists who fought to integrate aspects of a Democratic National Convention 52 years ago.
The event on Tuesday will focus on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the group of black activists who challenged Mississippi’s all-white delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1964. The event is co-sponsored with BET Networks.
It features actor Bryan Cranston, who plays President Lyndon Johnson in an HBO movie that recounts his push for civil rights legislation and relationship with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought on behalf of the black Mississippi delegates.
Airbnb has been at the center of a political storm in recent months as pressure has grown on its leadership to address racial discrimination on its platform.
Black Airbnb users have organized around the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack to share their stories of racism while trying to book a room, home or apartment using the popular service.
The company has pledged to improve, and use its technical expertise to build out tools to fight discrimination. It has also retained former Attorney General Eric Holder to help right its anti-discrimination policy.