There are probably other things Airbnb would rather talk about, but issues of discrimination took center stage at the company's Open Air conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Engineering VP Mike Curtis said during a keynote that the company was facing challenges with racial discrimination and unconscious bias, which he noted were generally prevalent in society and not issues one company could solve.
"I want to stand here and tell you that we are committed to battling this with every tool at our disposal and with zero tolerance," he said.
He referenced instances of racism and transphobia the company has recently grappled with. The company removed a host from the app earlier this month when he sent racist insults to a black guest over the app and told her to "find another place the rest." The site banned another host for denying a room to a trans woman.
"There has been a lot of discussion of this issue in recent days and weeks," said Curtis. "We take it seriously and we're taking action but also no one company can solve it alone."
In a subsequent talk centered on diversity, Airbnb Director of Diversity David King said Airbnb was working on providing hosts with tools to help the platform be more inclusive. He specifically referenced machine learning models and other incorporations of technology the company was working with.
"We believe that a platform that brings people together with smart rules and smart tools can make a difference," he said.
Curtis' comments followed an announcement the VP made of three new product features. With business bookings increasing, the company will allow business partners including travel managers and executive assistants to book rooms on Airbnb on behalf of colleagues.
Curtis also announced updates to the app's Wish Lists feature, and thirdly announced that multi-party reviews would be enabled. Multi-party reviews will allow hosts to review multiple guests, rather than just the guest who booked an Airbnb. The hope is that this will lead to guests establishing more fleshed out reputations and will lead to greater transparency.
Greater transparency "helps create trust," he said. "Airbnb does not exist without trust."