By Mark Milian, Bloomberg News
Airbnb Inc. hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to develop a strategy to address potential racism and other discrimination against people using the online home-rental service following complaints by some customers.
Holder will work with John Relman, a civil rights attorney, to strengthen a corporate policy prohibiting discrimination by people using the website to rent their homes, Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky wrote Wednesday in a company blog post.
Airbnb is adding staff to monitor for discrimination and respond, he wrote.
“This is the greatest challenge we face as a company,” Chesky wrote. “We will not simply ‘address the issue’ by doing the least required for liability and PR purposes. I want us to be smart and innovative and to create new tools to prevent discrimination and bias that can be shared across the industry.”
Airbnb was accused in a civil-rights lawsuit in May of ignoring a black man who complained that his request to book a stay through the site was rejected by a host because of his race. Laura Murphy, the former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office in Washington, has been leading a companywide review, Chesky wrote.
In addition to underscoring Airbnb’s commitment to anti- discrimination goals, Holder’s hire signals a desire to bring in expertise from Washington. The company has faced pressure from government officials around the world. Last week, three U.S. senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company and other room-rental services over their effect on local housing markets, claims of discrimination and other issues.
Uber Technologies Inc., another highly valued San Francisco startup that faces regulatory pressure, set up a U.S. safety advisory board in November that included Margaret Richardson, the former chief of staff to Holder. After leaving the attorney general’s office last year, Holder returned to Covington & Burling, a Washington law firm.