Airbnb Sues Its Hometown

Company says San Francisco rental registration ordinance is confusing, unconstitutional
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2016 2:35 PM CDT
Updated Jun 28, 2016 2:40 PM CDT
Airbnb vs. San Francisco.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Airbnb has filed a lawsuit alleging its First Amendment rights have been violated and that rules surrounding a new city ordinance flout federal protection for internet companies, and its target is its own hometown, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ordinance in question was passed unanimously earlier this month by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, and when it takes effect within the next month or so (the New York Times says July; TechCrunch says Aug. 1), Airbnb and other online rental marketplaces will have to ensure hosts renting out their homes are registered with the city. If the company doesn't comply, it can be fined $1,000 per unregistered host per day or be forced to scrub its site of those listings. But in a blog post, Airbnb says "unfortunately, the rules do not work," and CNNMoney notes a registration process that may "turn off" some hosts, including a $50 fee and a mandate that all paperwork be turned in in person.

Specifically, the company claims the law will put some San Francisco residents at risk of eviction or foreclosure because of "confusing" registration rules, and that the ordinance would violate the 1996 Communications Decency Act and the Stored Communications Act, which, respectively, protect websites from liability due to user content and from having to hand over consumer info without appropriate legal measures. A rep for the San Francisco attorney's office tells the San Francisco Business Times the city's not regulating online content—it's regulating the hosts' business. "It's simply a duty to verify information that's already required of a regulated business activity," the rep says. (These Airbnb renters found a rotting corpse.)

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