Amid growing concerns about its rental listing platform, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said the company will start verifying all hosts and listings on its platform.
The news comes after a Vice investigation, published last Thursday, uncovered a “nationwide web of deception” where a person or organization was able to exploit Airbnb’s rules through phony listings and fake reviews undetected by the company.
Also last Thursday, five people were shot and killed at a Halloween party held in an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California that specifically prohibited parties. The party was advertised on social media and had more than 100 people in attendance.
On Saturday, in response to the Orinda shooting, Chesky announced on Twitter that the company would ban “party houses,” and shared several measures the company would take to combat unauthorized parties and weed out “abusive host and guest conduct.”
At the New York Times DealBook Conference on Wednesday and in an email to staffers, Chesky went further, announcing stronger measures and more details about how the company will rebuild trust in its platform to seemingly address both scams and house parties.
Airbnb will start verifying all 7 million listings on its platform, with the goal of reviewing every home listing and host by December 15, 2020. The verification process will seek to vet the accuracy of photos, addresses, and listing details as well as inspect for quality standards such as cleanliness, safety, and basic home amenities.
The effort will involve “essentially a combination of the company and the community,” Chesky said on stage.
“So, we’re going to use technology, we’re going to use guests, we’re going to basically get a confidence score, but we’re going to make sure that we can stand behind every single listing, every single host.”
While many platforms outsource content review work, a spokesperson for Airbnb said the review team will be internal.
Chesky also said Airbnb would launch a “guest guarantee” on December 15, 2019 for those who arrive at listings that don’t match their descriptions on the platform, as well as create a 24/7 “neighbor hotline” staffed with people internally that are “trained by police chiefs” to deal with complaints in a timely manner. Chesky first teased the concept of creating a rapid response team on Saturday.
In the email to staffers, Chesky said the company has retained some law enforcement veterans to help with the training program and protocols for the hotline, including the former chief of police of Philadelphia and Washington, DC. It is slated to launch by the end of this year.
Chesky reiterated that the company will conduct additional reviews of high-risk reservations. As an example, Chesky said at the conference a high-risk reservation would be a single person booking a 10-room home in the city in which they live for one night.
It’s unclear how many people the company will need to hire to meet the new promises. Chesky called the measures “a significant investment.”
“Many of us in this industry over the last 10 years are going from a hands-off model … to realizing that’s not really enough, that we have to take more responsibility for the stuff on our platform,” Chesky said. “I think this has been a gradual, maybe too gradual, transition for our industry.”
Chesky said the updates do not impact the company’s plans to go public in 2020.
“We are investing for the long-term,” Chesky said. “Ultimately we’re in the business of trust so we have to make these investments to protect our users.”