April Glaser in Slate:
This weekend, alt-righters and white supremacists will descend upon Charlottesville, Virginia, as they have throughout 2017. But they may find themselves without a place to party. That’s thanks to Airbnb, which this week removed users who were using the service to book venues as part of their Unite the Right rally, as Gizmodo first reported. The company learned from some of its users that Unite the Right attendees were organizing logistics on the neo-Nazi website the Daily Storm, which brands itself as “The World’s Most Genocidal Republican Website” and has a poster for the event on its front page that urges visitors to join the rally “to end Jewish influence in America.” Once Airbnb confirmed that some rally-goers had used the platform to book listings for events associated with the anti-Semitic rally, the home-share site decided to boot those users’ accounts.
This wasn’t just an easy and correct call for Airbnb. It was also an example of how a platform company can actually make judgments about what is and is not an acceptable behavior, rather than simply waving away controversies by claiming it offers a mere tool for its users. That’s something that many deep-pocketed Silicon Valley firms can’t seem to figure out—and an area in which, until recently, Airbnb struggled, too.
In this case, the problem that Airbnb had on its hands was clear-cut. “We’ve taken over all of the large AirBnbs in a particular area,” wrote a user named SCnazi on a Daily Storm message board. “So far, we’re close to filling our 7th house. We have 80-90 people, and are a mix of various AltRight groups.” SCnazi continued: “We've set up ‘Nazi Uber’ and the ‘Hate Van’ to help in moving our people around as needed, esp. between our off-site locations and Charlottesville.” Airbnb said it booted a number of rally attendees because they “would be pursuing behavior on the platform that would be antithetical” to the community policy,” which requires “those who are members of the Airbnb community accept people regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age.”