Airbnb's commitment to building a connection between hosts and guests in the interest of safety is actually helping them discriminate against each other, the Washington Post reports. Harvard researchers sent out 6,400 requests to Airbnb hosts in Los Angeles, St. Louis, DC, Baltimore, and Dallas using fake accounts. The accounts were identical except for the names, which were either stereotypically white or black. The study
—published Wednesday—found guests with "black" names were 16% less likely to be accepted. That's about the same level of discrimination found in everything from the job market to classified ad rates, the Post reports. "This is absolutely not a story about how people are bigots on Airbnb," study coauthor Michael Luca says. "This is entirely about the choices that online platforms make that either facilitate or prevent discrimination."
Researchers found discrimination came from all hosts—black, white, female, male, expensive properties, cheap properties, etc. The Post reports the only exception was black female hosts, who didn't appear to discriminate against black female guests. According to the study, this discrimination came at a financial cost, as hosts who turned down guests only found replacements 35% of the time. But the researchers aren't just pointing out the problem, they're helping solve it. According to Forbes, they partnered with some computer scientists to create a downloadable tool called Debias Yourself. Airbnb users with Chrome can download the tool, and Debias Yourself will scrub the names and photos of hosts and guests from the site.