Airbnb has announced plans to verify every single one of its approximately 7 million listings after a mass shooting at an Airbnb in October, alongside several other safety initiatives.
The shooting took place at a Halloween party thrown at a California Airbnb, leaving five dead and prompting Airbnb Co-Founder, CEO, and Head of Community Brian Chesky to declare a ban on “party houses”.
Chesky also tweeted about several other safety initiatives, including “expanding manual screening of high-risk reservations” and a “dedicated ‘party house’ rapid response team”, though he was somewhat light on details.
Now we have a clearer idea of exactly what Airbnb’s response will entail, with Chesky outlining several ways the company will improve the safety of their listings in an email to Airbnb employees on Wednesday.
The most notable announcement is that Airbnb aims to have every host and listing on their site verified by 15 December 2020. That’s around 7 million properties that need to be checked, not only for accuracy of the listing but for quality, cleanliness and safety.
Speaking at The New York Times‘ DealBook Conference on Wednesday, Chesky said that verification would be carried out by “a combination of the company and the community.”
“I think many of us in this industry over the last 10 years are going from a hands-off model where the internet’s an immune system to realizing that’s not really enough,” said Chesky. “That we have to take more responsibility for the stuff on our platform, and I think this has been a gradual — maybe too gradual — transition for our industry.”
If a guest checks into a listing only to find it doesn’t meet Airbnb’s standards after December 15, the company will book them into a different Airbnb “of equal or greater value.” If there are none available, the company will instead offer a complete refund.
This should be at least some comfort to travelers who fly halfway around the world only to find their Airbnb they is less “cozy cottage” and more “dilapidated shack.”
Airbnb will also launch a 24-hour emergency hotline in the U.S. by the end of this year, rolling out globally in 2020. The Neighbour Hotline will be manned by actual people, who will undergo a training program developed under the advice of two former police chiefs. The rapid response team will aim to deal with complaints “in a timely manner,” though it isn’t clear exactly what they’ll do in the event of an unauthorized party since they presumably won’t be actual cops.
Finally, Airbnb announced that, starting December 15 in the U.S. and rolling out globally in 2020, they will be manually reviewing every high-risk reservation in order to prevent house parties. High-risk reservations will be detected by their “risk detection models”, which looks at factors such as the length of the stay, the size of the property, and where the guest is coming from.
“So for example, if a single person books a 10-room home, for that night in the city they live in, that is a very high-risk reservation,” said Chesky.
“I think that ultimately technology has its limits, at least technology today, and so you have to put a lot more humans behind it in the review.”
Vice noted in a recent report that the company’s failure to satisfactorily verify hosts’ identities allowed scammers to operate unchecked, an issue exacerbated by poor customer support. Hopefully the company’s new initiatives will go some way to rectifying this, as well as making Airbnbs safer overall.