Admitting that Airbnb's founding team of "three white guys" was "late to this issue," CEO Brian Chesky claimed the company was now committed to doing everything possible to rid the platform of discrimination this week.
In response to the recent #AirbnbWhileBlack movement highlighting incidents of bias and bad behavior by hosts (such as this black man's story of his troubles booking a place via Airbnb), Chesky told the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado that discrimination is the issue that most keeps him up at night.
What Airbnb is doing to fight bias
Airbnb is in the midst of a 90-day internal study into how to confront the problem, but Chesky already has a few ideas.
In order to stop hosts from reacting to potential guests based on their biases, Chesky said the company was planning on providing more detailed information on guests so those considering letting them into their homes could make more informed decisions. Using photos to build trust between users will be de-emphasized.
"We commissioned our own study in Stanford and found that there can be discrimination if everyone's a stranger," he said. "What we need to do is add objective measures, so people don't rely on, you know, prejudice."
Of course, a snazzy-sounding degree or other reassuring biographical details won't be enough to convince died-in-the-wool racists, a fact Chesky admitted. "There are racists in the world and we need to have a zero tolerance," he said. "We've developed a better escalation system so if we hear something in the community we absolutely make a stand in the community."
In response to a comment from an audience member, Chesky also admitted that the company's less-than-incredibly diverse staff may have hindered its efforts to make the platform as inclusive as possible. "I totally agree. What happens inside the building manifests outside the building," he responded. The company recently hired its first diversity chief.
Whether or not these measures will fix the problem, Chesky and his team are determined to get the problem in hand as they see it as threatening the very core of their business. "Discrimination for most companies is an adjacency to their business. Our mission is to bring people together so this is an obstacle to our mission," he insisted.
(PS- Want to read more about the inside workings of Airbnb? Then check out this cool profile of Belinda Johnson, the company's usually low-profile Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer, which describes her as playing a central Sheryl Sandberg-like role within the growing organization.)
What do you think Airbnb needs to do to reduce or eliminate discrimination on its platform?